Akwesasne's Lacrosse Legacy

You might be a fan of lacrosse or even a player, but do you know where lacrosse came from? Lacrosse is actually an ancient sport first practiced by Indigenous tribes in North America. To the Haudenosaunee, the game is a gift from the Creator, a medicine game for men used for healing and to lift the spirits of the people.

History of the Sport

Art by John B. Thomas, Akwesasne

In the 1600s, French Jesuit missionaries first documented that they saw lacrosse being played by native people in the St. Lawrence River Valley, and it’s the French that gave Lacrosse its name from the curvature of the stick. In Mohawk, lacrosse is called tewa:aráton, pronounced de–wa–ah–lah–doon, which translates to “it has a dual net.”  Another Mohawk name is teiontsikwaeks, which means “they bump hips. “

In Akwesasne today, lacrosse is an important and vibrant part of our community. The game has a few forms: recreational, competitive and traditional. Recreational lacrosse is played for fun, often called yardball or pick-up. The competitive game is played at all levels around the world, and takes place either outdoor (field lacrosse) or indoor (box lacrosse). The traditional form is considered medicine and is conducted ceremonially for healing. In Akwesasne, most players have experience with all forms of the game. The relatively recent growth of lacrosse among Akwesasne girls and women was the subject of a 2016 documentary, Keepers of the Game and a feature in The Washington Post.

Lacrosse Stick Making in Akwesasne

Hickory splits destined for greatness.

Mohawk lacrosse stick making is a tradition and a trade that has been passed down for generations. Around the 1920s, Akwesasne became a commercial hub for wooden lacrosse sticks. The stick makers of Akwesasne once manufactured most of the world’s lacrosse sticks, an output that continued for decades until a fire devastated one of the main factories. Without the high production of Mohawk-made sticks to meet demand, new synthetic materials helped boost the popularity of plastic sticks by mid-century. While plastic sticks still dominate the market, “woodies” made of hickory and natural materials have made a comeback due to their strength, longevity, and historical significance.

This tradition is carried on today in Akwesasne by stick makers like Traditional Lacrosse, Lewis Mitchell Lacrosse, Johnson Lacrosse, and Mohawk Lacrosse. Their products are completed with the help of stringers, skilled individuals who lace together leather and sinew to create pockets. It’s no surprise that Akwesasne has some of the best stringers in the world!


Experience The Game

Be sure to stop by the Akwesasne Lacrosse Hall of Fame, located inside the A’nowara’kó:wa Arena (nicknamed the Turtle Dome for its architectural design). Stroll around the upper level to see plaques dedicated to Akwesasne’s best lacrosse players, several of whom were among the best in the USA and Canada. The arena floor is crowned by a stunning mural depicting lacrosse as the original medicine game.

Akwesasne Jr. B Thunder, 2023 OJBLL Champions

The stadium-style arena is home to several box lacrosse teams. Fans fill the stands all summer long to watch the Akwesasne Thunder take on opponents from throughout Ontario in the action-packed, hard-hitting indoor game. All teams of the Akwesasne Storm minor lacrosse association play their home games here. In 2022, the arena hosted the National Lacrosse League for a weekend of pre-season exhibition games.

Sticks Sports Book & Grill, located inside the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort, has local lacrosse memorabilia and artwork on display.

Current Lacrosse Stick Makers

Evan Cree of Traditional Lacrosse

While you are in town, make time to visit a lacrosse stick-making shop.

Traditional Lacrosse is well known for its quality lacrosse sticks. The operation was started in 2012 by three Akwesasne Mohawk friends, Evan Cree, Colin Hall, and Carey Terrance who wanted to ensure the longevity of the original game by increasing the accessibility and availability of the traditional wooden stick. They make nine different size traditional wooden lacrosse sticks from hickory crafted by Akwesasne Mohawk makers. They also offer laser engraving services and custom trophies, medallions, plaques, and other items making it an ideal spot for a special gift.


  • Phone: 518-358-4238
  • Email: info@akwesasne.travel