It would be quite remarkable for Canadians today to witness the transition of a traditional, Indigenous game into what we now call Lacrosse. It was an important cultural and spiritual custom for the players, communities, and First Nations. This Indigenous game was different from the sport as we know it nowadays.
Originally, this game was often played on open areas by a lot of competitors, sometimes up to several hundred, divided into two teams. Astonishingly, a game could last for up to many days. The participant’s physical skills and endurance was impressive and the game was more than just a physical activity.
The first organization of the sport was formed in 1856 under the name Montreal Lacrosse Club. That was a key moment in the game’s development from a First Nations cultural practice into a national sport. In the mid-nineteenth century, European Canadians started playing the game and as a result, other club teams were formed in Quebec and Ontario. In 1860, the first rules of the sport were announced in a Montreal newspaper.
To attract immigrants to move to the country, the Canadian government used lacrosse as a national symbol to show Canada as a great nation. To do so, they organized two Lacrosse tours of Britain in 1876 and in 1883, including one team of the First Nations players and another team of the European Canadian players. The two team tours wowed the thousands of British spectators at each game. A special match was held privately for only Queen Victoria at her castle in Windsor, England.
These tours are typical examples of the ways in which lacrosse played a key role in developing the Canadian national identity. To celebrate these early developments, in 2003, Canada’s federal government identified lacrosse as Canada’s national summer sport. It is played as a professional sport now.