Ho-Chunk Lacrosse: A Game of the Generations

Hailey Rose

April 5, 2023

Photo Credit: Discover Mediaworks

Lacrosse is far more than just a game for the Ho-Chunk Nation. It’s intertwined within the history of Ho-Chunk Nation and continues to carry on as each generation grows. From masterful woodworking, craftsmanship, and culture, Ho-Chunk Nation continues to pass down their cherished traditions from one generation to the next, just as their ancestors have to them. Follow along as we learn more about the stick-making process, and the influence playing the game has had upon the upcoming generation.

The Stick-Making Process

Photo Credit: Discover Mediaworks

A member of Ho-Chunk Nation, Randall Blackdeer II, has worked hard to preserve the ancient origins of lacrosse by teaching himself how to make the sport’s unique sticks.

First, he finds and gathers the wood of choice; hickory. Hickory is considered the best wood to use in crafting a secure and solid stick. To begin the process, he splits and debarks the log in order to draw a straight line along the grain. Once a line is drawn, he then cuts the log into board form.

Next, Randall shaves down the stick to the proper size and shape. One of the most important features of the stick is the blade–the top part of the stick–which bends to form the cup to catch the ball. To make the wood pliable, he places the blade into a steam box for about 20 minutes, wraps it around the circular cup, and secures it with a clamp for about 2 days until the wood is dry. Once the wood has fully dried, the wood will stay and be able to endure the physical game.

Lastly, he drills holes into and around the circular, cupped portion of the stick in order to lace the netting. In addition, he sands the stick to ensure it’s smooth and ready to play with. Each player can then decorate and stain theirs how they’d like.

In an effort to revitalize Ho-Chunk’s culture, Randall’s grandfather, Wilbur, was also a stick maker. It’s an acquired skill of Randall’s and a skill he intends to pass down to his son who began learning the process and absolutely loves playing the game.

Playing the Game of the Generation

Photo Credit: Discover Mediaworks

The game of lacrosse is played like many sports games–with a goal on each end and two teams which have offensive and defensive positions. The main strategy is simple–scoop the ball, cradle it all the way to the end zone, and score!

But to Ho-Chunk Nation, it’s more than just a game. Lacrosse has been a tradition for generations. Dating back to the early 1900s, Ho-Chunk members continually played, as it was the popular game of choice. However, it has been on the decline as other sports like baseball grew in favor.

Even so, Randall Blackdeer II has remained persistent to preserve the games’ traditions by not only teaching the woodworking craftsmanship behind stick making, but also teaching the sport to the upcoming generation. 

As new generations emerge, Randall, along with other members of the Ho-Chunk Nation, are proud that it will continue to carry on into the future. An ancestral game from years ago still plays an influence today as they continue to revitalize their culture and connect with their long-lasting legacy.

Ho-Chunk’s rich history is full of masterful woodworking, craftsmanship, and cultural traditions such as lacrosse that continue to play a major role from the unique stick-making process to the influential game that has endured from one generation to the next. Ho-Chunk Nation continues to pass down their cherished traditions just as their ancestors have to them. 

Hailey Rose: Writer for Discover Mediaworks. A born & bred Wisconsinite with a love for fishing, hunting, and enjoying the great outdoors.

*Narration provided by Wondervox.

From the team at Discover Wisconsin: We believe in making our content accessible to all, which is why we offer an audio version of our blog posts. By clicking the play button above, you can listen to our blogs!

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