Frank Belleau is an artist, knowledge keeper, and lover of baaga’adowewin (the sport of Lacrosse). Frank is of the Crane Clan, a graduate of both Algoma U and Queen’s University, and is from Garden River First Nation.
Frank is passionate about revitalizing the local excitement for baaga’adowewin. Playing weekly, he invites anyone who wants to learn more about the sport to join him every Saturday afternoon, at 2:00 pm, at the Ball Park in Garden River.
Baaga’adowewein has been played in many forms across Turtle Island, dating back thousands of years. Baaga’adowewin is a healing sport, gifted by the Creator as a means of celebration and ceremony. Both men and women played the sport, though it was a more common recreation for men.
Practicing baaga’adowewin was banned from Indigenous communities, and outlawed in residential schools for many years. French settlers then adopted the sport after seeing a demonstration of baaga’adowewin in Montreal, in 1834.
A teenage dental apprentice from England, William George Beers, founded the Montreal Lacrosse Club in 1856, and is said to be, “the Father of Modern Lacrosse”. A decade later he drew up rules which included reducing the number of players to 12 per team, introducing an umpire, changing the standard to a rubber ball, and “redesigning” the stick used.
Beers is quoted as saying, “the present game, improved and reduced to rule by the whites, employs the greatest combination of physical and mental activity white men can sustain in recreation and is as much improved to the original as civilization is to barbarism, baseball to its old English parent of rounders, or a pretty Canadian girl to any uncultivated sq***.”
The changing of the name of the game to “Lacrosse”, was a result of the French settlers seeing a resemblance between the sticks used, and a bishop’s staff, a crozier, or crosse in French, “la crosse.”
They quickly excluded Indigenous players from their new leagues, as their skill levels far exceeded those of the settlers.
Frank has been crafting lacrosse sticks for many years, and says he feels most at home when he is playing, or making baaga’adowewin sticks.
Starting with a small plank of wood, Frank provided a tour through the process of crafting a baaga’adowewin stick through the planing, sawing, chiseling, steaming and bending of the ash wood.
Frank must have the fire started by 8:00 am in order to steam the half-shaped sticks long enough to create enough bend in the wood.
More to come as Frank Belleau shares the full process of finishing a baaga’adowewin stick.