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The Creator’s Game: Indigenous heritage highlighted at Mann Cup in New West

The power of sport:  “It opens doors. It empowers people.”
Drumming by supporters of the Six Nations Chiefs has filled Queen's Park Arena during the 2023 Mann Cup.

The New Westminster Salmonbellies and the Six Nations Chiefs may be competing for the Mann Cup – but they are also showcasing the Creators Game.

Long before Europeans colonized North America, Indigenous peoples played stickball, which is now known as lacrosse. The Creators Game came from the belief that the Creator had gifted the idea of stickball to Native Americans.

Allan Downey, a member of the Nak'azdli First Nation and an assistant professor in the department of history and classical studies at McGill University, has written: The Creator’s Game: Lacrosse, Identity, and Indigenous Nationhood. His writings examine how lacrosse, a game played by some Indigenous cultures for centuries, also has an important role in the shifting politics of Indigenous efforts to assert self-determination.

Soon after their arrival on the West Coast to compete in the 2023 Mann Cup, the Six Nations Chiefs attended a dinner hosted by the Squamish Nation.

The following day, the City of New Westminster hosted a Mann Cup luncheon for the teams at Queen’s Park Arena.

Qayqayt First Nations Chief Rhonda Larrabee attended the Mann Cup media launch/luncheon to welcome Six Nations.

Wilson Williams, an elected councillor with the Squamish Nation, spoke of the power of sport – specifically lacrosse.

“The power of sport today is much stronger to the world than it has ever been. Simply, because it changes peoples’ lives,” he said. “It opens doors. It empowers people.”

Williams said sport brings people together and helps create connections.

“It unites people,” he said. “It unites people to come together.”

Sport provides space to get to know people, Williams said.

“It allows space for cultural exchange,” he said. “It allows space for people to have an open heart and mind, to let people in to understand who they are and where they come from.”

Williams said the power of sport in Indigenous communities runs deeper than the game of lacrosse.

“It is part of who we are,” he said.

Williams said he hopes the Mann Cup is an opportunity to make connections between communities and to help spread the game.

“What we want in lacrosse is the unity we need in life,” he said. “So I ask all of you to have that open heart and mind to help grow the game for all of us to be a better and stronger community.”

Paul Dal Monte, commissioner of the Western Lacrosse Association, welcomed both teams to the 2023 Mann Cup and acknowledged Six Nations’ presence.

“It is an opportunity for both teams to showcase the greatness of the Creators Game. I encourage booth teams to take advantage of that, he said. “They’ll be under the spotlight, with tons of media attention. We have an opportunity to showcase the game as both teams compete in what is the most coveted and iconic trophy in the game of lacrosse, regardless of what league you play in. The Mann Cup holds that status.”

At Thursday’s Mann Cup kickoff event, several members of the Squamish Nation shared a drumming song to “uplift” the Mann Cup.

Visitors from Ontario who have travelled west to watch this year’s Mann Cup and to support the Six Nations Chiefs have been joined in the stands of Queen’s Park Arena by members of some local First Nations, with the sound of drums reverberating throughout the building.