The following story is one version of a Haudenosaunee tale that teaches every creature has a purpose and importance according to the Creator’s plan. Lacrosse is in the forefront of the legend.
Long ago a lacrosse game was set to be played by the four-legged animals and winged birds. Captains for the animals were: the Bear, noted for overpowering all opposition due to his girth; the Deer, known for speed and agility on the field; and the Great Turtle, who withstood harsh blows, but continued to move toward his opposition.
The winged birds’ captains were: the Owl, who was wise and whose keen sight allowed him to keep his eye on the ball; and the Hawk and the Eagle, each excelling in rapid movements.
As the birds were preparing for the game they noted two little creatures, climbing up a tree to their leaders. The small animals – a mouse and squirrel – asked if they could be on the birds’ team. Eagle was perplexed and asked why they did not ask the four-legged animals. The little creatures said they had but were rejected and laughed at by the other animals because they were small.
Taking pity on the small creatures, the bird captains contemplated how they could incorporate the mouse and squirrel into their team. The decision was made to make wings for the little animals. But how would they do it?
One innovative bird thought the leather used for water drums could be removed from the drumhead and attached to the legs of the little mouse. The result: the bat was created.
The birds ordered the bat to catch the lacrosse ball when they threw it in the air. He showed great skill in circling and dodging and managed to keep the ball constantly in motion, never dropping it to the ground. His remarkable skill convinced the birds to allow him to play on their team.
Alas, there was no more leather to make wings for the squirrel. It had all been used for the bat’s wings and there wasn’t enough time to acquire more. With time running out, one bird suggested stretching the squirrel’s skin in the hope of making wings. After much tugging and pulling of the fur between the front and back feet the wings were made and the flying squirrel created.
Now the game could begin.
Two of the captains – Eagle and Bear – met and a face off began. The flying squirrel caught the ball and passed it to Hawk, who kept it in the air for some time. But then, as the ball nearly hit the ground Eagle saved it and through elaborate maneuvers kept possession of the ball even saving it from the fastest of the four-legged animals – Deer. Faking a pass to Squirrel, Eagle passed it to Bat, who scored the winning goal for the birds.
The legend illustrates that everyone has qualities that can be of great help when needed – no matter how big or small you may be.
For more information on the history of lacrosse visit: https://www.oneidanationlacrosse.com/
Or visit the Shako:wi Cultural Center, 5 Territory Road, Oneida, NY. Open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Seasonal hours on Saturdays. Info (3150 829-8801.