International Men

January 31, 2009

Spreading the Original Gospel

Gewas Schindler (above) and the rest of the Native Nation Lacrosse crew are trying to carve out a spot in the competitive camp circuit by adding a historical component to their clinic structure.
(Photo: John Strohsacker)

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

After watching busload after busload of Native American youngsters pour into the Native Vision Camp in Albuquerque, N.M., several years ago, Gewas Schindler and Cam Bomberry, both members of the Iroquois National World Team, looked at each other with a knowing glance.

They had received confirmation about an idea they had both been talking about for some time.

"All of these different tribes, or what they call Pueblos down in New Mexico, were sending kids from all over the place. They were being bused in from hours away. It really kind of blew us away to see all this interest," said Bomberry, who watched the campers play football and soccer, along with lacrosse. "We saw that interest, so we kind of put two and two together and said, ‘Hey, let's go out and see what we can find in terms of lacrosse camps.'"

The duo, who both starred in the National Lacrosse League, took the concept one step further. Instead of limiting themselves to just running camps and clinics for Native American players in different parts of the country, Schindler and Bomberry came up with the idea of bringing Native American lacrosse to anyone who wanted to learn about it.

As a way to break into the ever-expanding and hyper-competitive camp circuit, they would provide the skill-set that all of today's players would want while combining it with an educational component.

And, thus, Native Nation Lacrosse was born.

"We've done a lot of mini-clinics over the years and many camps, so we decided we wanted to have one from our own people's perspective," said Schindler. "It's kind of a blend of instruction plus a history review."

"Some of the things that we bring to the table are cultural," added Bomberry. "We discuss some of the historical aspects of it, what it has meant to our people, and where it comes from. Some just see people playing outside with a stick, but they don't know the history. Letting them appreciate it a little bit more is what we're trying to do."

"Everyone knows who Abner Doubleday is," said Bill Bjorness, the head coach of the Hartwick men and a coach for five different Iroquois National teams. "But they don't know why lacrosse was started."

The staff of Native Nation Lacrosse, which also includes SUNY Dehli head coach Bob Leary, has started off small.

Using contacts they have built up through their Iroquois Nationals experience, the founders have kept it simple in their first year. They held their first clinic in Clearwater, Fla., on Dec. 27-28 and a day later they opened their second one in Oceanside, N.Y. A future camp is scheduled for Pittsburgh in mid-June, as well as a yet undetermined date at Hartwick in Oneonta, N.Y.

The Iroquois experience has never been taken off the reserve before, so there is both excitement and trepidation. For players on the Iroquois Nationals and members of the Six Nations, lacrosse is a proud tradition tempered with a healthy dose of privacy.

While teaching about the original traditions of lacrosse allows the Native Nation Lacrosse camps to provide something no other camp offers, it doesn't drop the curtain on hundreds of years of closely-guarded secrets.

"There is a fine line there that we definitely are well aware of," said Schindler. "Our medicine games can be described, but in no way would we be sharing our language or anything that would be involved in these ceremonies. It wouldn't be anything controversial. It's just getting the word out about our history and helping the kids get better as players."

"We talk about our experiences growing up where we did and how the game we learned at early age is part of our family; is part of our life," said Bomberry. "It's always around us, so we try to give that back to other communities. There is a whole aspect that we don't talk too much about, and that's the sacredness of it within our culture. We do talk about the whole social aspect and all the positives that come from the sport of lacrosse."

For more information on the camps, please visit

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