The forcible placement of Indigenous children in residential and boarding schools by the Canadian and United States governments from the 19th century to as late as 1996 in Canada has come into broader attention across North America in the past few years. In its continuing efforts at recognizing and promoting the rich history of the Indigenous culture in the sport of lacrosse, the NLL today announced its league-wide, expanded support and awareness schedule for “Every Child Matters.”
In the campaign’s second year, all 15 teams will participate in the program, which will run from Week 9 (Jan. 23-29) through Week 11 (Feb. 6-12). Then for the remainder of the season, players will wear specially designed helmet decals in support.
All 15 NLL teams will be involved, either as host or as a road participant, with a planned home activity later in the season for some teams. Players will sport the NLL’s “Every Child Matters” logo on a specially designed warmup shirt, along with the helmet decal. The league will also produce audio and video messaging for broadcasts on TSN and ESPN. Additional content will be incorporated into NLL.com and league social channels, as well as into game presentations.
“Our continued work with Indigenous athletes and communities is a major priority for the National Lacrosse League, and the ‘Every Child Matters’ education process and activations are key components of that platform,” said NLL Commissioner Brett Frood. “This program presents an opportunity to facilitate meaningful conversations about the atrocities perpetrated by the residential and boarding school systems, continue the journey toward reconciliation, and honor survivors and their families.”
The “Every Child Matters” initiative is a part of the league’s ever-growing participation and awareness programs tied to Indigenous culture, which is at the core of the league’s values and the history of the sport of lacrosse. The work includes educational programs for athletes, coaches, staff and fans, land acknowledgment ceremonies, and charitable and social responsibility programs to strengthen and enhance the ties between league stakeholders and the Indigenous community.
Several NLL teams played games and conducted youth programs on Indigenous reservations earlier this season, with Philadelphia facing off against Georgia on Nov. 26 at Tsha’ Thoñ’nhes (Where They Play Ball) Arena at Onondaga Nation. Meanwhile, Las Vegas, San Diego and Halifax played a mini tournament in Akwesasne at the A’nowara’ko:wa Arena (colloquially called the Turtle Dome). This was the first of more in-person events ranging from clinics to other happenings that are currently in the planning stages and will be announced later in the season.
For “Every Child Matters,” the league created a new logo for this season with designer Justin Gilbert of Kuvua Designs. Justin was selected due to his work in support of Indigenous organizations and his connection to the cause, being born and raised on the Southern Ute Reservation. The logo contains the silhouette of an Indigenous child wearing a ribbon shirt and holding a traditional wooden lacrosse stick. The text “Every Child Matters” appears next to the image with a heart and feather.
“In this logo, I wanted to celebrate the culture we as Native Americans endured to keep. Since there are so many tribes that were affected by residential schools, my goal was to represent the vast collective of tribes who were affected,” Gilbert said.
Fans will be able to purchase cotton shirts through the league’s online stores, NLLShop.com and NLLStore.ca. For every shirt sold, the NLL will donate to the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund in Canada and The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition in the United States.
“With support from third-party fundraisers like the National Lacrosse League, we are reaching even more people throughout Canada, building cultural understanding, and creating a path to-ward reconciliation,” said Sarah Midanik, CEO and President of the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. “Thank you for answering Gord’s call to ‘Do Something’ to improve relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.”
“We are grateful for the National Lacrosse League’s willingness to partner with us and use its platform to bring awareness to the atrocities forced upon Indigenous children, families and sovereign nations across Canada and the United States,” added Deborah Parker (Tulalip), CEO of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition. “As we continue to work with boarding school survivors, educate the public, and advocate for policies that promote truth, justice and healing, partnerships like this will make our work more impactful.“