For Toronto 2017 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) ambassador Cody Jamieson, the sport of lacrosse is more than just a game — it’s medicine.
A Mohawk from the Turtle Clan at the Six Nations, Jamieson says that while competing at the highest levels internationally in lacrosse, he carries with him the knowledge passed down to him from his ancestors that the game is a “gift from the creator.”
“It was never intended to be a game of war but to scare sickness away from the tribe,” says the 29-year-old star of the National Lacrosse League’s (NLL) Rochester Knighthawks. “When you play lacrosse the right way, you play it from a clear state of mind, not angry or upset. The energy we create while playing is what drives away sickness.”
Jamieson was introduced to lacrosse by his father and older brother and played his first competitive game at age three. He went on to earn a scholarship to Syracuse University and has enjoyed a successful professional career with a number of top level leagues.
The three-time NLL Championship Cup winner and two-time Championship Game MVP says part of the healing power of the game is its ability to give players an
outlet to release pent up emotions, which is why he says he uses it as a teaching tool when mentoring youth.
“Our reserve has a big problem with suicide and a lot of that stems from bullying,” said Jamieson. “Being a team sport I use lacrosse to show them they always have a teammate on their side. The sport has definitely helped me navigate a lot of personal struggles, so when I can do that for someone else it’s a great thing.”
Having competed at the North American Indigenous Games as a youth back in 2002 in Winnipeg, Jamieson says he still has fond memories and is excited to witness a younger generation experience the same thing.
As ambassador, Jamieson is a proponent of the NAIG’s Team 88 initiative which promotes the positive impact of sport and wellness in Indigenous Communities.
Named for the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions call to action number 88, the initiative also connects him to the Games in an uncanny way, having sported the number on his lacrosse jersey for many years.
“Since I started lacrosse, every time I’ve had a chance to choose my number, I’ve chosen 88,” recalled Jamieson with amusement. “It’s a good coincidence to have right now.”
With the Games being in Toronto, Canada’s media epicenter, Jamieson is hopeful it will force the world to take notice of the wide pool of young Indigenous talent.
“We have amazing athletes that often never get seen because nobody wants to go to the reserve to recruit,” remarked Jamieson. “They say if Toronto was a reserve it would be the biggest populations wise. The Games being here might open the eyes of a lot non-Aboriginal people that there are still a lot of us around and we’re pretty good at what we do.”