July 11, 2011
Sticks -- which were later donated to attendees -- await their owners on the South Lawn of the White House before a Let's Move! in Indian Country event.

White House Hosts Lacrosse

By Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Chesapeake Bayhawks attacker Danny Glading grew up in Washington, D.C., but had never made it to the White House before.

"I've driven by it hundreds of time. Just being so close to the actual White House, it's amazing. This is the best place I've ever played," said Glading.

Onondaga Faith Keeper Oren Lyons has been to the White House so many times on official tribe business that he's lost count, but this trip was an exception to the rule.

"I've been here many times with many presidents, but it's the first time with a lacrosse stick," said Lyons, nodding at one of two lacrosse goals set up on the South Lawn of the White House.

Glading, Lyons, and a handful of other lacrosse luminaries converged on the White House to teach a new generation about lacrosse. The event was held in conjunction with Let's Move! in Indian Country, and gave about 80 children the chance to learn about lacrosse and try their hands at playing it.

"This is what we call the Creator's game. It's His game, because the Creator likes the best. He watches it all the time," said Lyons as he addressed the attendees. "This game is our gift to you."

Let's Move! in Indian Country is a Department of the Interior initiative under the umbrella of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, which is dedicated to solving the problem of childhood obesity. American Indian and Native Alaskan children have the highest rate of obesity of any ethnic group (20.7%)

"We believe if we work together we can solve the problem of obesity in children in a generation," said Mike Strautmanis, the Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor to the Senior Advisor for Strategic Engagement. "President Obama is also committed to celebrating American Indian heritage. Today it is through lacrosse, one of the fastest-growing sports in the country."

Following Strautmanis, Lyons gave a brief introduction to the game and Iroquois Confederacy Tadodaho Sid Hill, wearing traditional robes, offered a traditional blessing in the Haudenosaunee language for the event.

After the opening remarks, the laxing began at five separate stations scattered across the South Lawn. Kids scrambled for ground balls in a miniature box lacrosse field, and learned about traditional stick stringing and healthy eating from Alf Jacques, the "Stick Maker" of the Onondaga Nation. Iroquois national team players Brett Bucktooth and Jeremy Thompson explained shooting, and Glading and recent Maryland grad Jenny Collins taught the basics of catching and throwing. The participants all received sticks and balls, courtesy of Brine and Warrior.

"It's the fastest growing game, especially for women. It has so many opportunities," said Collins, who won a national championship with the Terps in 2010. "The great thing about lacrosse is it's a possession sport. You pick it up, you hold it, you're cradling. They get a lot of time with the ball."

The children were drawn from a DC-area MetroLacrosse program, and from Native American groups visiting Washington, D.C. from the Eastern band of the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina and the Menominee reservation in Wisconsin. MetroLacrosse CEO and president Emily Helm drew comparisons between the challenges of encouraging physical fitness among urban populations and among American Indians.

"The childhood obesity epidemic affects urban areas more than other areas," said Helm, who leads one of the nation's largest and most successful urban lacrosse programs.

"There's a really nice overlap that intersects with what MetroLacrosse is doing, trying to increase the physical activity of kids and help them understand healthy eating habits and good choices that will fuel their athletic potential. It's such an exciting experience to be at the White House, and on top of it, a layer of a sport they all love so much."

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