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Hoosier Works With Miami Tribe To Provide Logs For Making Lacrosse Sticks
Updated November 16, 2016 4:03 AM
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Pegonge helps a student wrap the end of the stick around the jig. Photo was taken by Karen Baldwin.
Planing down the curved portion of the lacrosse stick at the workshop. Photo was taken by Karen Baldwin.
Thornton and Peconge selecting the right trees to cut for making the sticks.
Chris Thornton (left) and Doug Peconge with logs they loaded for the workshop to make lacrosse sticks.

(BEDFORD) - The Hoosier National Forest (NF) worked with the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, a federally recognized tribe, to provide logs for making lacrosse sticks. One of the provisions of the 2016 Farm Bill was for the Forest Service to work with Native peoples to provide a limited amount of forest products as requested.

The Miami Tribe of Oklahoma has a 40-year relationship with Miami University in Ohio. The University provides a tuition waiver to tribal members and there are currently 32 undergraduate tribal students attending Miami University. The tribe also supports the Myaamia Center, which conducts a wide range of research and educational workshops near the Oxford campus. On November 10 and 11, the Myaamia Center, with support from the Miami Tribe's Fort Wayne based Cultural Resources Extension Office conducted a workshop on making lacrosse sticks.

Lacrosse is a Native American game played with wooden sticks, originally called peekitahaminki by the Miami and often known more generically in English as stickball. It was played by most tribes in the eastern half of North America, and around the western Great Lakes. The games were major events for the tribes and took place over several days.

Wooden balls were use in games as well as leather balls filled with deer hair and plant fiber cordage. Netting on the sticks was made from deer sinew and leather.

Doug Peconge, Community Programming Manager for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma's Fort Wayne Cultural Resources Extension Office, came to the Hoosier to help select logs. He explained although the workshop used modern tools, they used traditional methods as much as possible to make the sticks.

With this first workshop Peconge hoped to have enough logs to make 32 sticks. He explained with a tree eight inches in diameter they can make eight sticks if the wood is straight grained and does not have knots or sweep in the log. Old growth trees are preferred. He emphasized it was important that the trees be fresh since the cambium needed to be alive for the wood to be supple and bend.

Tribal member George Ironstrack taught the workshop in Liberty, IN. Peconge shared pictures of a Lacrosse stick he had made and explained the process.

The log is split in half, then quarters, then eighths using wedges. They use a band saw to cut out the form and then plane down the curved part to about a quarter inch. That section is submerged in water overnight to soften the wood and make it pliable. The thin top section is then wrapped around a jig and fastened down, and left to set. Meanwhile the handle can be planed down to fit your hand.

Peconge took three hickory logs and an ash log to use for the workshop. Traditionally the sticks would have been made from hickory since hickory bends without breaking and is resilient to blows. The ash is light-weight but breaks more easily than hickory and would not have been used as often historically. It is a good wood for beginner players who can handle the lighter stick with more ease. Sadly, because of the emerald ash borer, this wood will soon not be widely available. The impact of the loss of ash trees is even more significant for Native American basket makers for whom the black ash is the preferred wood.

Chris Thornton, Silviculturist on the Hoosier NF, worked with Peconge to arrange for the permit and cut the trees. He had one hickory log donated from Jim Rhodes, a logger operating on the Forest. When he mentioned the Native American's permit, he said Rhodes picked out his best small hickory log and helped load it for Peconge. The other logs were selected by Peconge and cut by Thornton. As Peconge drove away with the logs Thornton mused, "These are the days that make the job fun, you feel like you have helped someone and made a difference."

For more information on how the Forest Service works with tribal governments, contact Angie Doyle at 812-275-5987.

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