By Art Coulson
For the first time in 25 years, Minnesota will send a lacrosse team to compete in the North American Indigenous Games next year in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The last time a Minnesota lacrosse team played in the Indigenous Games was in 1995 when the Games were held in Blaine.
The 2020 North American Indigenous Games will be hosted by Halifax and the Millbrook First Nation, a Mi’kmaq community in Nova Scotia, from July 12 to 18. The Games will bring together more than 5,000 athletes and cultural participants from 756 native nations. Participants will compete in 15 team and individual sports, including archery, badminton, baseball, basketball, golf, rugby, soccer, beach volleyball, swimming and wrestling.
Team Minnesota will compete in box (indoor) lacrosse in three age categories: men’s 16U (players born in 2004 or later) and 19U (players born in 2001 or later) and women’s 19U.
Team Minnesota is hosting a series of open tryouts in the metro and in native communities across the state this summer. Teams will be made up of 20 players at each age level – 18 runners and two goalies.
“We have a lot to do over the next year to come together as a team and to improve our game,” said Twin Cities Native Lacrosse director John Hunter, who is helping to coordinate the tryouts for lacrosse, basketball, baseball and softball. “I’m really excited to have that goal put in front of us.”
Hunter said Team Minnesota will also be working to raise the funds needed to send athletes and coaches to Nova Scotia.
Hunter said Twin Cities youth lacrosse players have been discussing participation in the Indigenous Games for the past several years. They had hoped to compete in the Toronto games two years ago but missed the entry deadline.
Hunter said Twin Cities Native Lacrosse players have scrimmaged Team Wisconsin and developed a strong relationship with the native players from our neighboring state. Hunter said the two teams had developed a strong relationship and hoped to strengthen it even further.
“It’s really neat – really fun – to be from different communities but to have the same goal,” Hunter said. “It’s a different feeling to have two native teams training together and having fun.”
The North American Indigenous Games is one of the few opportunities native youth have to play modern lacrosse against all-Indian teams. Hunter said, “There are Indian softball tournaments. There are Indian basketball tournaments. But there haven’t been tournaments for lacrosse – the modern game. This will strengthen the bonds between our communities.”
Hunter is particularly excited for the Team Minnesota players to get a chance to play against Iroquois teams, some of the best lacrosse players in the world.
And, he said, the Team Minnesota players will get more from the tournament than the opportunity to play against the best American Indian lacrosse teams from across North America.
“Our kids will travel and get to meet relatives who speak the same language and have the same stories,” Hunter said.
The next tryout for the Team Minnesota lacrosse squad will be at 1 p.m. Aug. 26, at Hasse Arena, 8525 215th St. W., Lakeville, MN. Players need to bring their own protective equipment and gym shoes. The indoor surface is smooth concrete.
To learn more information about upcoming tryouts, events and fund raisers, see Team Minnesota on their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/ Team-Minnesota-2020-NAIG-23724 93496126851.
See North American Indigenous Games at: www.naig2020.com, and the Millbrook First Nation at: www.millbrookband.com.