May, 2022 – Learning comes in many different forms and one after-school credit option for Indigenous students at Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School (CCVS) is helping with their mind, body, and soul.
The sport of lacrosse, which is said to have been first played in 1100 A.D., is a traditional Indigenous game. This year at CCVS, retired professional player and current cultural advisor Mike Thompson and teacher Jen Suggars started this after-school program to engage students in cultural learning, interact with others, and have fun while earning credit.
This unique after-school credit course teaches students the fundamentals of lacrosse, the cultural and historical aspects, and how to cook culturally appropriate foods to support exercise and healthy bodies.
Quest Thompson, a Grade 12 student at CCVS, is one of approximately 20 participating in the lacrosse after-school credit program. He says he really enjoys this credit option because it’s fun, teaches him and others about the sport, and gives him something to do after school.
“It’s been a very good experience. I’m learning about the game of lacrosse, the rules, and they are teaching us not just the sport way of playing, but also going back to the roots and how we used to play,” he explains.
For the nutrition portion of the course, students learn easy-high protein snacks and meals that an athlete would eat before a game. They also make culturally appropriate foods and beverages including strawberry drink. In Indigenous culture, the strawberry is considered a gift from the Creator. The juice or strawberry water was known to promote health and well-being and was a feature of various ceremonies. Medicinal teas also were made from the leaves and roots of the plant, which help to treat several ailments.
Mike is sharing his knowledge of lacrosse and his professional career with students, teaching students the rules, the history, how to make repairs to their sticks and how to re-string them. Students will also learn how to make a traditional lacrosse stick as part of the course.
“Part of what I’m sharing with the students is my professional experience playing the game,” he explains. “I’m bringing in a different aspect that they have no idea about. The rules, difference between box and field lacrosse, teams, and places I’ve travelled, and players I’ve played with.”
Mike, who played for the Buffalo Bandits in the National Lacrosse League, says in addition to teaching students the rules and history, one of the major keys he wants students to gain from it is to not be afraid to try new things.
“For the learning aspect, I’ve added spirituality, nutrition, and physical teachings to the program. Some of the students have never even really played before and some have.”
Grade 9 student Louie McDonald, is one participant who plays box lacrosse outside of this program and says he is learning a lot from Mike and is enjoying it.
“It’s a fun sport,” he explains. “While the sport traditionally has a lot of body contact and goals that are scored, it is a fun and cultural game for us to learn and play. I’ve learned a lot from participating in this course.”
“Before I looked at lacrosse as a sport, but now I look at it as more than that,” adds Quest. “Because in my culture, we don’t call it lacrosse. We call it the medicine game. It was meant to play not just for yourself, but for others. It was like saying thank you. This is how we say thank you to our Creator. This is a game for him, not us.”
A program highlight that Mike shares are seeing experienced student lacrosse players teaching others, including the international students, and providing a space for students to learn and help steer them in the right direction.
After-school lacrosse runs every Tuesday and Thursday at CCVS. While this program is geared towards Indigenous students, several international students have shown a strong interest in learning about Indigenous culture, and history and have been welcomed with open arms.