By Jada Jinks | December 5, 2022
Map of Indigineous Nations in North America
Photo Credit: American Museum of Natural History on wikimedia commons
On Monday at 6 p.m., the Indigineous Student Association held an event with the Thompson Brothers in the Campus Center West Auditorium (minus the second youngest, Miles).
The Thompson Brothers are four famous professional lacrosse players and also the founders of "4 The Future Foundation." This is a foundation that helps kids who are indigenous or kids from other underserved communities build a healthy lifestyle and leadership skills through the game of lacrosse.
The eldest brother, Jeremy, began the event off with a Thanksgiving Address. The Thanksgiving Address is a central prayer for the Haudenosaunee people and this address acknowledges that all forms of life (humans, animals, trees, as well as others) are all connected, equal to one another, and should be in allegiance with one another. There is no form of life that is superior to another, and everything in this world has a purpose and a lesson to teach. After this, each brother talked to the audience about their own individual stories and what they learned from it.
Jeremy talked about how people shouldn't shy away from the struggles they faced in life because those struggles shaped who they are. When he first transferred to public school in Syracuse, he felt like the odd one out because he didn't speak English. Into adulthood, he felt like he belonged to two different worlds as an Indigineous man who grew up in America. There was a time he also struggled with drug addiction, which made it harder for him to use his outlet of lacrosse.
Eventually though, with his father's guidance, he managed to find a way to push forward. One day, he was outside his childhood home and noticed how the water in a creek kept on moving, even when there were obstacles in the way. The water was also connected to everything despite being blocked off by different obstacles. He reflected on all the things he had been through in life, and decided to be like the water in that creek and keep pushing through dark times. There would be no stopping until he connected back to his roots as a lacrosse player.
“In that moment, I realized who I was supposed to be,” Jeremy said. His lesson was that the dark moments in your life can help you figure out who you truly are and what you can truly bring into this world.
Jerome (or Hiana, his Indigineous name) talked about the importance of sticking to your dreams and aspirations. He also struggled with learning English, just like Jeremy, and also felt out of place within the school system. Also like Jeremy, his main outlet for dealing with all that was lacrosse. His main goal was to attend Syracuse University with Jeremy, and go on to become a professional lacrosse player. That plan didn't fall through, however, when he didn't get accepted into Syracuse while Jeremy did.
For a while, he was very depressed and even stopped playing lacrosse. But after attending one of Jeremy's games, he realized that lacrosse was a part of him, in both his family and culture. He wasn't going to give it up, and so he joined up for lacrosse teams on his own and earned a spot on one of the teams. His lesson was that you should always keep reaching for your goals and aspirations because they can be essential to who you are.
Lyle brought all of the lessons together by briefly going over the history of lacrosse and its importance to the Haudenosaunee people.
One phrase that Lyle said a few times during the event was "Keep holding onto that stick."
Lyle explained that the original purpose of lacrosse was to honor the Creator, the source of Indigineous spirituality. To keep on honoring that tradition, Haudenosaunee children are given wooden lacrosse sticks as soon they're born. Through childhood to adulthood, they are taught how to use, honor, and cherish that stick. And when they die, they are buried with the stick. The stick and the game of lacrosse itself represents joy, respect, healing, harmony and many more things. And what the game represents can go into what steps can be taken together to help the Indigineous community heal from the trauma inflicted on them by colonialism.
The Thompson Brothers each talked about their personal stories of struggle and triumph, and in each one of their stories, there was a message of relying on each other, taking care of mental health instead of framing it as unchangeable, and seeing the world as whole, not divided.
President of the Indigineous Student Association, Jillian Benedict, felt that the main message the Thompson Brothers brought to the stage was balance. "When we become balanced as an individual we can help the collective follow suit and in the end it benefits us all. Within this balance Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can come together to fight for bigger purposes,” Benedict said.
Both Hiana and Jeremy talked about similar feelings of feeling like they didn't know where to belong because they're a part of "two different worlds."
Lacrosse is one of the connections between those two worlds. UAlbany's men's lacrosse team filled up many of the seats in the Auditorium. And after the event was over, all of the lacrosse players went up to talk to the Thompson Brothers and shook hands with them.
Native American Heritage Month is an opportunity to bring Indigineous and non-Indigineous people to the same space and collectively learn from that space together.
“More minds come together as one, more energies at the same level, the more powerful the gathering,” Lyle said.