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Culture lesson comes to Highlands gym class

John Hunter teaching lacrosse Oct. 4, 2018 – Weaving a history lesson into a physical education course is difficult to do, but last week John Hunter, director of Twin Cites Native Lacrosse, provided Highlands Elementary students a way to enjoy both. Twin Cities Native Lacrosse is an organization that works to advance the culture, knowledge and skills of lacrosse. Hunter, who is Native American with Ojibwe ancestry, shared with students the history of lacrosse within Native American culture.

During Hunter’s presentation, students learned about Dakota and Ojibwe tribes and viewed pictures from the 1800s.  Hunter also explained in detail how traditional wooden sticks were made in Native American communities. “It was eye-opening for students to see the equipment, especially the sticks, that the Native American’s used when playing,” said Julie Mickschl, physical education teacher.

Students practicing lacrosse  After the lesson, every student was given the opportunity to practice the sport using wooden sticks that Hunter handcrafted. Students practiced the basic skills of lacrosse such as scooping, passing, cradling, and shooting.

Hunter, who grew up in St. Paul, played modern lacrosse when he was in high school. He started his lacrosse demonstrations in 2014 after realizing there was an opportunity to share his culture. “I was inspired by my own personal connection, ancestry, and heritage,” said Hunter. “Native communities were focused on other important aspects of our culture, and I saw an opening.” After receiving help from a mentor, he applied for a grant and formed the group to teach and grow the game. Twin Cities Native Lacrosse has modern and wooden stick leagues that compete regularly. 

The visit from Hunter gave students a chance to gain new insight into the sport. His presentation also impacted students who currently play lacrosse. Mickschl said, “Students who play lacrosse gained a greater respect for the sport after learning the history behind it.”