Native Community Welcomes New Lacrosse Star

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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.