‘This game is our game:’ opposing Akwesasne, Six Nations players join dances

The Jimerson family performs a dance in the second-period intermission. They also performed a smoke dance during the pre-game ceremony and were joined by players from Akwesasne and Six Nations, on Wednesday August 7, 2019 in Akwesasne, Ont. Nick Dunne/Cornwall Standard-Freeholder/Postmedia Network NICK DUNNE/CORNWALL STANDARD-FREEHOLDER/POSTMEDIA NETWORK

AKWESASNE — The barn-burner Ontario Lacrosse Association Jr. B championship series between the Akwesasne Indians and the Six Nations Rebels brought plenty highlights to remember, but one of the most-memorable scenes occurred right before the game.

Each game in Akwesasne and Six Nations begins with a smoke dance. Like the rest of the season in Akwesasne, the Jimerson family performed it for the packed crowd at the Turtle Dome. But during the final series against Six Nations, they had some special guests.

Opposing players Brett Logan and Gutch Salinas— of the Indians and Rebels, respectively— took off their gloves and helmets and laid down a firestorm of moves with the dance crew, who were dressed in regalia. The dance involves lightning-quick footwork of the feet mixed with heavy, thunderous stomps that slam to the beat of the drum.

In Game 1, it was Logan who joined the smoke dance on a whim. In Game 2, Salinas couldn’t help himself. From then on, the two performed before each of the remaining games.

“We are passionate about the game of lacrosse and our heritage, our language, our songs and our dances. As you can see, every single of us came together came for this series.” said Salinas.

Formerly a war dance for soldiers to display their battle-time achievements, the dance’s purpose and style has evolved. It is now a full-on competitive dance frequently performed at powwows, and is an opportunity for people to strut their stuff and show off their talents.

The smoke dance holds deep cultural value to the Iroquois, much like lacrosse, whose significance in both Akwesasne and Six Nations of the Grand River is major. It was considered to be the Creator’s game, a gift to the people for his entertainment that would heal those who played. Though modern lacrosse has been modified to mirror elements of basketball and hockey, that cultural link remains strong to this day.

 

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