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Akwesasne girls face off MPs on Parliament Hill

MP Marc Miller wanted to honour the country’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls with this year’s lacrosse game on Parliament Hill. (Natalia Fedosieieva, The Eastern Door) 

It was Mohawks versus MPs at Parliament Hill Tuesday night in Ottawa.

The Akwesasne Ride girls’ lacrosse team travelled to the nation’s capital to compete in a friendly game with the members of parliament on the Hill.

Liberal MP Marc Miller invited manager and founder Amy Lazore and her crew.

PM Justin Trudeau stopped by to check out the Akwesasne Ride lacrosse team’s skills as they faced off against members of his government. (Courtesy Marc Miller)

“Native women took up the game and he (Miller) was very curious,” she said. “He was talking to his colleagues and they said ‘yes, do what you can do and bring the players up.’”

Lazore said she is grateful for generous input of Miller and Danielle Lazore-Thompson, parliamentary research assistant at Canada’s Senate, for making this event possible.

“It makes people, who are watching the game, feel good,” said Lazore. “They see these girls and their skills, just to know the work that they’ve put in and passion they have and to see them flourishing after all the hard work.”

The Ride started three years ago as an intense indoor and outdoor training regimen for girls wanting to play lacrosse.

“My daughters started in a boys and girls team in a field game, where they had helmets and pads,” she said. “There was a lot of contact and hitting, and running on each other. It was rough.”

Miller said part of the reason for having this team come was to lift up the women’s team, particularly this year, with the recently released national inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls final report.

“We’ll try to make it every year,” he said. “It is a privilege I have, to be honest. I felt it would be fun to have some people to start dealing with this team to play a ball around.”

He thinks the front lawn of parliament is a beautiful place to share with people, and to have some fun “doing this sport that we all love.” 

“Just last year we did it with a Kahnawake men’s team,” he said. “This year we’ve decided to do it with Akwesasne girls. It is pretty amazing to watch.”

It was just a lacrosse game on a lawn in one sense, but in another it was an act of reconciliation between the Kanien’kehá;ka of Akwesasne and the Canadian MPs they faced off against. (Natalia Fedosieieva, The Eastern Door)

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, said it is a real form of reconciliation, and everything that Miller does, in terms of trying to incorporate such opportunities, helps people understand one another a bit better.

“It is really relationships that make changes,” she said. “It is about making new friends and it is the only way to move forward,” she said.

“When you look at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG), you see the pride with which people play this particular sport, an Indigenous-invented sport. They have such a spiritual connection and we learn more about the creation of these kinds of activity.”

Mackenzie Francis-Chubb, 13, started to play lacrosse when she was seven, and dreams of becoming a professional athlete.

“It was good experience today,” she said. “It’s important for me because it was intimidating. I would like to play again in such an event.”

Her mother Morgan Francis said the idea of paying lacrosse on Parliament Hill was an unusual and great opportunity for her daughter.

“I’m very proud of her,” she said. “I think she learned a lot from today’s event.” 

Lawrence Francis, Francis-Chubb’s grandfather, was beaming with pride at his granddaughter’s skill.

“It is great to come to the parliament to participate and enjoy the game,” he said. “I’m very proud of my granddaughter, she has been playing for years.”

Teya Mitchell, 15, said, “girls playing lacrosse isn’t really something that is known, and it is just starting to be a big thing around.

“This game brought acknowledgement of the girls playing lacrosse,” she said.

Her mother Tina Mitchell wants to return the favour.

“It could be nice to invite Marc to Akwesasne to play,” she said.

Akwesasne Ride mother Tina Mitchell wants to return the favour and get Liberal MP Marc Miller and company to come play in her community. (Natalia Fedoseieieva, The Eastern Door)

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