Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse: A Game for Life

We are creating an Iroquois Lacrosse Curriculum that will confer lessons in life for Iroquois and other indigenous youth across the world.

About You

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Your idea

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Positioning of your initiative on the mosaic diagram:

Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Sport is trivialized

Which of the principles is the primary focus of your work?

Social cohesion

If you believe some other barrier or principle should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic:

In principle, Iroquois (or Haudenosaunee) Lacrosse is a medicine game given to us by the Creator. It is a blueprint for life. It is encoded with our cultural DNA. It provides collective healing, guidance, life force and direction.

Name Your Project

Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse: A Game for Life

Describe Your Idea

We are creating an Iroquois Lacrosse Curriculum that will confer lessons in life for Iroquois and other indigenous youth across the world.


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What is your signature innovation, your new idea, in one sentence?

We are creating an Iroquois Lacrosse Curriculum that will confer lessons in life for Iroquois and other indigenous youth across the world.

Describe your innovation. What makes your idea unique and different than others doing work in the field?

The Iroquois Game of Lacrosse is sacred. It teaches about respect, community, culture, team before self, and the importance of putting our minds together as one to give thanks. These lessons, learned through preparing for, playing and watching this sport, protect and strengthen the individual, family, community, and all of nature.

The Iroquois were the originators of the game of Lacrosse. We also are a sovereign Indian nation within the United States. Since date, we have fielded a Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Team that plays on an international level. Our top Iroquois Nationals players are now teamed with elders in our community to create this curriculum.

The finished curriculum will be used in one-of-a-kind lacrosse camps that support sport for social change for youth in our communities, and ultimately extend to other Native and non-Native communities throughout North America. We believe the inherent values conferred through learning our game will help to heal the earth.

What are the existing barriers, the biggest problem, your innovation is hoping to address/change?

Through 500 years of intense oppression by the dominant society, Native communities have suffered cultural, social, economic and physical upheaval. Our ability to hold on to our values and sacred connection to Earth and the Creation is damaged. Our Native children and families now suffer high rates of substance abuse, low educational achievement, poverty, and hopelessness about the future. Lacrosse provides a pathway to reconnecting to our value system and healing our peoples and planet.

Delivery Model: How do you implement your innovation and apply it to the challenge/problem you are addressing?

Our Iroquois Nationals Lacrosse Curriculum will be implemented at first through five-day overnight camps. The curriculum will have four primary teaching components: heritage, skills and drills, team concepts, and wellness/healthy lifestyles. Each compenent will confer the following values: Respect, Culture, Community, Team before Self, and Peformance Principles. The ovenight camp will blend rigorous field-based learning of the game of lacrosse with workshops where metaphors from the sport teach leadership, service and the importance of education. In addition, there will be activities with our elders to confer important lessons about our history, heritage and culture. The camps will create an indelible life-changing experience for youngsters, which will be reinforced as they play Lacrosse in the future. After camp, camp participants will be given access to a web-based Lacrosse community for sharing and receiving messages from other campers, Iroquois Nationals players and elders.

How do you plan to grow your innovation?

The curriculum will be created in modules that can be used in various camp formats (1-day, 3-days, 1-week, 2 weeks) as well as through semester-long school based programs or through community-based afterschool programs. Branding this camp with the Iroquois Nationals identify will help raise awareness and promote it among Native and non-Native communities across the country. We have also partnered with Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, who works with tribes across the country. They will assist in facilitiating connections and are willing to partner in offering the curriculum through their existing Native Vision sports and lifeskills initiative. We will also incorporate a train-the-trainers component that will prepare our best participants to become coaches in future clinics. Finally, Iroquois Nationals sports apparel, designed in partnership with Nike, Inc. will be marketed via the camps, and revenues can help support future expansion.


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Provide one sentence describing your impact/intended impact.

We will create healthier Native children and communities, and as we grow stronger, sharing our lessons through Lacrosse will create a healthier world

What impact has your innovation had to date/or what is your intended impact? Exactly who are the beneficiaries?

Our innovation is currently generating social cohesion and community empowerment as our Haudenosaunee Lacrosse players, elders and grassroots community leaders are gathering to engage in curriculum production.

Our beneficiaries are first our Haudenosaunee six nations youth, including 10-19 year olds from the (include the tribal names) tribes. Second, we will reach out to our Native youth in North America. Third, we will serve youth from other disenfranchised communities from North American and across the world.

We expect our innovation will help youth who receive the curriculum to chart a healthy, productive future for themselves and our communities. As we grow stronger through our youth and leadership, our values of respect for people, nature and the planet will impact the world.

How many people have you served directly?

Our curriculum will be launched in spring 2008.

How many people have you served indirectly?

Indirectly, we are currently generating hope and inspiration among the six Iroquois Nations participating in this effort. This momentum is critical at a time when are communities believe we have a short time ahead to reverse the damages our culture, communities and beliefs have suffered over the past 500 years.

Please list any other measures reflective of the impact of your innovation?


What are the main barriers to creating or achieving your impact?

We do not perceive any barriers at this point in town.

This Entry is about (Issues)


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How is your initiative financed (or how do you expect your initiative will be financed)?

The creation of our curriculum is being supported by consultants from Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health. Up to $25,000 in funds are supporting community consultants who are participating in the development of the curriculuar content. A moderate revenue stream and in-kind support is coming from the Iroquois Nationals team.

If known, provide information on your finances and organization.

This initiative is being run by a volunteer staff. We have one part-time project director who is being paid on a stipend basis. The total annual budget for the Iroquois Nationals is $200,000. The total budget for this project will be $25,000 to $50,000.

What is the potential demand for your innovation?

There are 15,000 youth from the six Iroquois Nations who could be served by this effort. In addition, there are approximately 1 million Native youth in the age range 10-19 across North America who could benefit from this curriculum. Finally, this curriculum will ultimately have relevance to hundreds of thousands of youth across the world.

What are the main barriers to financial sustainability?

We may face competition from other corporate-sponsored U.S. Lacrosse clinic and camp initiatives, as Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in North America. However, we will offer a truly unique experience, as youth can learn from the originators of the game and understand lacrosse as a path to life skills, personal and community development, social coheion, and respect for Nature and the planet.

The Story

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What is the origin of this innovation? Tell us your story.

The Iroquois people are the originators of the game of Lacrosse, which dates back to more than 1000 years ago. We have played Lacrosse internationally since the 1800s. As the result of racial oppression, we were barred from playing our own game internationally, until the 1990s, when we officially reentered international competition with recognition as a separate nation by the International Lacrosse Federation.

We remain the spiritial grandfathers of the game, the keeper of the Creator's gift of Lacrosse to humankind. As our nations seek solutions to the increasing social ills and mainstream pressures that threaten our youth, we see the renaissance of Lacrosse as a path back to the traditions and spiritual connections that make us strong. This year the idea of formalizing the rich and life-generating lessons of Haudenosaunee Lacrosse into a published curriculum evolved from meetings with elders and community leaders. It is the right idea and the right time.

Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers marketing material.

Neal Powless is a member of the Onondaga Tribal Nation, Eel Clan. Born Oct 27, 1974, he is a member of the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team, and has competed in World Championship tournament play since 1994. He was nominated to the ALL-World team in 2002 in Perth, Australia and member of the silver medal team that competed in the 2003 Indoor World Championships. He is currently Career Counselor/Native Program Academic Coordinator and completing a Masters degree at Syracuse University.

How did you hear about this contest and what is your main incentive to participate? (this is confidential)

We were sent an email about the contest. We are excited to share our innovation with others working in the field. We would also use the funds from winning the contest to assist with paying travel, audiotaping and videotaping of our cultural consultants.

Affiliation (please list all that apply)

Iroquois Nationals
Haudenosaunee Confederacy
International Lacrosse Federation
Nike Sport for Social Change program
BRINE Lacrosse
Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health
Native Vision Program

376 weeks ago Beau McCaffray said: Fantastic concept with vast potential for all Americans! Your answer to Ziba's first question above, about the social impact ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
379 weeks ago neal powless said: While I understand your point of view, I have a different vision. Everything we do changes the world in a positive or negative way. ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
380 weeks ago ziba cranmer said: Hi there, I would actually disagree because the values that are at the heart of the game of lacrosse are ones that can be relevant to ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
380 weeks ago Janet Carroll said: Though this is a good idea for Native Americans, it is not very far reaching and will only affect a small fraction of the population. I ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
381 weeks ago Janice Annunziata said: Greetings Neal- what a fantastic venture you have launched. Having worked closely for over a decade with your father on ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
382 weeks ago ziba cranmer said: and another link to a Boston Globe article on the ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
383 weeks ago ziba cranmer said: Actually its a great idea to write to someone at Insidelacrosse. I was also thinking that you guys should visit other programs that are ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
383 weeks ago neal powless said: Corey, Nice to hear from you, I hope all is well. Thanks for the offer, I will be in touch later as this thing progresses. Basically ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
383 weeks ago Corey Hinton said: Neil, I just saw this on What exactly is this project and how can I help? Let me know man, take care. Corey about this Competition Entry. - read more >
384 weeks ago neal powless said: Kevin, Good to hear from a fellow LAX-er. I actually played in Philly also, but only as a visitor against the Wings… All I can say ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >