Lacrosse is one of the oldest organized sports in North America. While at one point it was a field game or ritual played by First Nations, it became popular among non-Aboriginal peoples in the mid-1800s. When the National Lacrosse Association of Canada was formed in 1867, it was the Dominion of Canadas first governing body of sport. Lacrosse was confirmed as Canadas official summer sport in 1994. The Canadian national lacrosse teams (men and women) rank highly in the world standings, both in field and box lacrosse.
Lacrosse is a team sport in which players pass, catch, and carry a rubber ball, using sticks with a netted pouch at one end. The object of lacrosse is to accumulate points by shooting the ball into the opposing team's goal. The early versions of the game involved large teams of Aboriginal warriors playing over a field that could be over a kilometre in length. Since that time, lacrosse has changed significantly, and there are now four distinct games in Canada: men's field lacrosse, women's field lacrosse, box lacrosse, and inter-crosse.
The history of lacrosse is difficult to trace, for fact often meshes with fiction, and many aspects of the sport's history have been passed on as folklore. One of the most famous legends involving lacrosse dates from Pontiac's Rebellion of 1763, in which the Ottawa chief reportedly staged a game in order to distract British soldiers and gain entry to Fort Michilimackinac in what is now Michigan. First Nations warriors had played similar ball games for centuries before this early exhibition game.
Members of the various Algonquian language groups referred to early ball games as baggataway. Strong similarities among the war club, lacrosse stick, and even the drumstick, shown in photos of early Ojibwa implements, support the connection between these early ball games and the later development of lacrosse. There is also a strong link between lacrosse and the Mohawk ball game known as tewaarathon. As with other early Aboriginal ball games, tewaarathon served a number of functions; as the game was played by a large number of warriors on fields that could be over a kilometre long, it kept young men fit and strong for both war and hunting. It could also be played to strengthen diplomatic alliances, support social conformity and economic equality, and honour the gods. In general, Aboriginal women were excluded from these games, although in some First Nations women did play ball games on their own, or with men