people standing in line“Lacrosse as Medicine,” Monday at the Faculty of Human Kinetics, included a hands-on workshop in the Dennis Fairall Fieldhouse. Leading the workshop was Windsorite Rain Whited and his long-time friend and professional lacrosse player Kellen LeClair of the Buffalo Bandits.

Event highlights importance of lacrosse in Indigenous culture

Rain Whited was just four when his father thought he was old enough to begin playing organized sports.

“He asked me, ‘Do you want to play hockey or lacrosse?’ I didn’t even know what lacrosse was but I said, ‘Lacrosse.’ I think it was the Creator guiding me.”

For Whited, a member of the Oneida Nation of the Thames, lacrosse went on to become an integral part of his life. He played for the Windsor Warlocks, Windsor Clippers, and Wallaceburg Red Devils until he aged out of competitive leagues locally at 21.

Now 27, Whited is content to go for a jog with a lacrosse stick in his hands and to introduce his young son to the game. He also looks for every opportunity to share his love of lacrosse with others. Monday, he shared his connection to the sport and its importance in Indigenous culture at an event called “Lacrosse as Medicine” hosted by the Faculty of Human Kinetics.

The day began with Whited giving a guest lecture in kinesiology professor Krista Loughead’s Ethics in Sport and Physical Activity class, followed by hands-on lacrosse workshops in the Dennis Fairall Fieldhouse. Traditional Indigenous foods — Johnny bread with a berry compote, fry bread, Three Sisters Soup, and meat stew — were available for sampling.

“You put a lacrosse stick in your hand, and it takes away all the negative energy,” Whited told the more than 200 students, staff, faculty, and invited guests who attended his talk.

“Lacrosse taught me discipline, respect, and how to be a teammate.”

UWindsor grad Kellen LeClair (BHK 2017), one of Whited’s former teammates who is now a professional lacrosse player for the Buffalo Bandits, lent his expertise to the event.

Both men brought along their sticks and other equipment to explain the game’s fundamentals.

The 30-second shot clock makes it a fast game, Whited said. And, he added, “It’s rough. If you have the ball, you are going to get hit.”

Whited showed video of a man making traditional lacrosse sticks out of hickory bent, sanded, and drilled to receive strips of leather.

“The wood of the stick, even the ground we play on, connect us with Mother Earth,” Whited said.

Monday’s event was made possible by contributions from the UWindsor Office of the Senior Advisor to the President on Indigenous Relations and Outreach, the Department of Kinesiology, and a Nanadagikenim (Seek-to-Know) grant from the UWindsor Centre for Teaching and Learning. The Seek-to-Know grant helps integrate more Indigenous content into the faculty’s curriculum.

Beverly Jacobs, senior advisor to the president on Indigenous relations and outreach, helped lead the discussion in the class and participated in the workshop.

“I am so grateful that Rain has been invited to share his thoughts about how lacrosse has helped in his own healing and well-being,” Dr. Jacobs said. “He is an excellent role model to students.”

Indigenous students from the Greater Essex County District School Board listened in on the talk, participated in the workshop, and toured the faculty as part of the event.

“Attending this event is a way to envision yourself here — seeing yourself in this setting,” said Angel Renaud, a graduation coach for the board’s 780 Indigenous students.

She said she was pleased her students could participate.

“It’s important to see people who look like you.”

—Sarah Sacheli

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