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Native Community Welcomes New Lacrosse Star
Tuesday, January 13 2015
 
Written by Art Coulson,
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native community welcomes new lacrosse star-web.jpgMiles Giaehgwaeh Thompson, co-winner of college lacrosse’s top honor last year with his younger brother Lyle, arrived in the Twin Cities on Jan. 2 to a hero’s welcome before he had even played in his first National Lacrosse League game.

Twin Cities Native American Lacrosse Club youth players, coaches and families joined other members of the local Native community to greet Thompson with banners and an honor song as he arrived at the Minneapolis airport. He was all smiles as he posed for photos and signed autographs for the fans in the airport’s baggage claim area.

The next night, Thompson scored three goals and one assist in his NLL debut at the Xcel Center before a crowd of almost 9,000 fans. Although the Swarm lost 20-13 to Colorado, the team’s native players – forwards Thompson (Onondaga from New York), veteran Corbyn Tao (Nishga First Nation from British Columbia) and returning Swarm star Dean Hill (Turtle Clan Mohawk from Six Nations) – accounted for more than half the scoring, with Tao and Hill adding two goals each.

When Hill fed Thompson the ball for one of his goals, a group of fans in the corner of the arena held up a large Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) flag and danced.

It was just the sort of welcome and excitement for the Creator’s game that Thompson was expecting.

“When I was talking to different (National Lacrosse League general managers) and trying to decide where I wanted to play, my brother Lyle told me about Minnesota,” Thompson said by phone before he boarded his flight to Minnesota. “He said the Swarm draws a big crowd and they really love lacrosse. That's really how I decided I wanted to come to Minnesota.”

Miles was the Swarm’s top pick in the 2014 NLL draft. The team also drafted Joe Haodais Maracle, Bear Clan Cayuga, who plays this year on the Swarm’s practice squad. Tao, drafted by the Swarm in 2011, played on the practice squad most of last season but returned to a starting role in 2015. Hill, played for the Swarm from 2006-09 before he was traded to Washington, then Colorado. He was re-signed by the Swarm as a free-agent last summer.

On the sidelines for the Swarm, assistant coach Aime Caines (Mi'kmaq First Nations) is in his eighth season with the team. Caines has been very involved in spreading the game in native communities across Minnesota, including leading Lax4Life camps at Fond du Lac and Prairie Island.

Thompson, too, wants to help grow the game with native youth.

“My brothers and I have camps that we run, Thompson Brothers Lacrosse, and we want to grow the game as much as we can,” he said. “This is our game as native people, so we want to take the camps to all of the reservation communities in Minnesota and work with the youth.”

The Swarm play their next three games on the road, returning to The Hive Feb. 6 for Native American Heritage Night and a game with the defending NLL champion Rochester Knighthawks. The game will be sponsored by the team’s 2015 partner, Ho-Chunk Gaming Wisconsin.

When asked if he had a message for the native community in the Twin Cities, Thompson said, “I'm excited to come out to Minnesota and I'm looking forward to meeting all of you.”

He got a pretty good start New Year’s weekend.

For more information about Native American Heritage Night or to buy tickets, call (888) MN-SWARM or visit www.mnswarm.com.

Art Coulson is a veteran journalist and member of The Circle board. His book, The Creator’s Game: A Story of Baaga’adowe/Lacrosse, was published in 2013 by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. He plays lacrosse and traditional Cherokee stickball.

PHOTO: Miles Thompson signs autographs for the youth in the Twin Cities Native American Lacrosse Club, who came to welcome him as he arrived in Minneapolis on Jan. 2. (Photo by Alfred Walking Bull)

 

Minnesota Swarm Native player and coach profiles

Assistant Coach Aime Caines, 39, finished his seventh season of coaching with the Minnesota Swarm in 2014. He also serves as the Director of the Swarm's Youth Box League and the head coach of the Jr. Swarm program. Prior to coaching, Caines spent five seasons in the NLL from 2001-05 with the Columbus Landsharks, Montreal Express and Buffalo Bandits. Caines began playing lacrosse in Windsor, Ontario where he played minor lacrosse. He later played for five years in the junior “A” league with the Sarnia Pacers. The Winsdor native also spent time in the Western Lacrosse Association (WLA) for the Newestminster Salmonbellies and in the Major Series Lacrosse (MSL) for the Brampton Excelsiors, Akwesasne Indians and Barrie Lakeshores. Caines has been active in the local lacrosse community in his time with the Swarm. He serves as the head coach at East Ridge High School, and is a former assistant coach for the University of Minnesota Men's Lacrosse Club. In the summertime, Caines directs youth lacrosse camps on the Fond du Lac and Prairie Island reservations in effort to help restore the tradition of lacrosse amongst Minnesota’s native population.

Dean Hill, forward, 30, was drafted in the fifth-round (No. 48 overall) of the 2005 NLL Entry Draft by Minnesota out of Brock University. The Scarborough, Ontario, native led the Swarm with 32 goals in 2007. Hill played for the Washington Stealth from 2012-13 and scored 76 points (37 goals, 39 assists) over two seasons. During the Stealth’s runner-up finish in the Champion’s Cup in 2013, Hill tallied 38 points (20g, 18a) and 29 loose balls in the regular season. As a member of the Colorado Mammoth in 2014, Hill scored three points (1g, 2) in two games played. He signed a Free Agent Contract with Minnesota in the summer of 2014.

Joe Haodais Maracle, a 20-year-old forward from Ohsweken, Ontario, was the No. 10 pick overall in the 2014 NLL draft from the Six Nations Arrows (Jr. A). Maracle won a Minto Cup this summer with the Arrows and totaled 39 points (22g, 17a) in 13 postseason contests. In the regular season, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound lefty scored 49 points (14g, 35a) in 18 games.

Corbyn Tao, 26, a right-handed forward from Coquitlam, British Columbia, was selected by Minnesota in the second round (12th overall) of the 2011 NLL Entry Draft out of Robert Morris University. Tao, who lives in the Twin Cities, has been quite visible in the native community, speaking at schools and helping with lacrosse camps on Minnesota reservations. In 2010, Tao led his college team in goals with a school-record 41 and was ranked first in the nation in shooting percentage, scoring on 53.2 percent of his shots at RMU.

Miles Giaehgwaeh Thompson, 24, won the Tewaaraton Trophy in 2014 with his brother Lyle, becoming the first native players to win the college lacrosse equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Thompson, a righ-handed forward out of the University at Albany, was the Swarm’s top pick (third overall) in the 2014 NLL draft. Thompson, who plays summer lax with the Rochester (NY) Rattlers, finished his college career as Albany’s all-time leader in points (293) and goals (189). In the World Lacrosse Championships last summer in Denver, Thompson helped lead the Iroquois Nationals to a bronze medal finish.



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