Lacrosse Helps Integrate Kyle Jackson with Native American Background
While Boston Cannons midfielder Kyle Jackson wasn't fully emerged in his Native American background when he was first born, lacrosse has helped Jackson learn about his culture and the importance of the origins of the game.
"I'm a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Native American," Jackson said. "I also didn't really grow up in the typical reservation, like Six Nations, where lacrosse was at the forefront of everybody's mind. I'm the outlier in 99.9 percent of the cases, and it doesn't cause problems by any means, but it puts me in a very different avenue than a Randy Staats or a Lyle Thompson, who ultimately have grown up with the Native American roots behind them."
Jackson is Ojibwe from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia, Ontario. As his professional lacrosse career progressed, so did his integration with the Native American culture. This, Jackson said, is in part because of his time playing for the Iroquois Nationals, and in part because of his relationships with other Native American players in Major League Lacrosse (MLL) and the National Lacrosse League (NLL).
"I was at the forefront of really having to educate myself with what my background really entailed over the last couple of years," Jackson said.
Jackson welcomes those differences between his and others' integration with the culture, and his appreciation for the opportunity to play the Creator's Game is unwavering.
"It's amazing," Jackson said. "It almost seems to have this different, profound meaning behind it when you put on that jersey. Not that putting on a USA jersey or a Canada jersey isn't special, but the support that the Iroquois Nationals has from a family standpoint-anytime you travel, anytime you're playing in any location, there's always a group there supporting you and embracing you like family."
That familial family extends through all of the players. Jackson, who is the only Indigenous player in MLL not from Six Nations, said that all of the Native American players in the league are working to share The Creator's Game.
"There's no division," Jackson said. "It's all of us working together towards the same goal of sharing the game of lacrosse in a loving, traditional way that ultimately helps bring people on board to pick up a stick and enjoy it."
Educating fans of the sport about where lacrosse comes from and what the Indigenous people have endured throughout history is a priority for Jackson and other Native American players. Lacrosse is just one small part of their history, Jackson noted, and it comes down to giving back to the communities and making sure that the youth have idols to look up to beyond sports, but in life in general.
"It's really about doing everything I can to be somebody that people can have as a resource to know that you don't necessarily need to be from Six Nations or you don't need to be from a hotbed of the Indigenous people in order to enlighten your career and have a career of longevity," Jackson said. "My experience with it might not be as long term as others, but I do everything I can do to inform people to the best of my knowledge. I'm learning every second, just like everybody else is."
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Major League Lacrosse Stories from November 17, 2020
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