"...Lacrosse Warrior is both a fine contribution to the "Recordbooks" series and to the literature about First Nations figures.
Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is CM's editor.(Dave Jenkinson CM Magazine - Volume 15, Number 10)
Award winning author Wendy A. Lewis was first introduced to lacrosse when she was just 18 years old while doing research for a school assignment.
Her interest in the sport grew over the years, so much so that she even decided to write a biography about Six Nations lacrosse legend Gaylord Powless, released earlier this year.
As part of the introduction, Lewis takes the time to talk about our ancestors, the history of lacrosse and how we believed that the game was a gift from the Creator used for healing and settling disputes between nations.
Readers will certainly appreciate that Lewis doesn't shy away from writing about the fact that at one point Native players were banned from national competitions because of their beliefs and because they were simply too good. Native players were also looked over for various competitions because of racist attitudes.
Following the introduction, readers are then introduced to Powless and his family. In addition to his lengthy lacrosse career, Lewis also writes about his days growing up in Six Nations; being ripped away from his family to attend Residential School and forced to stop playing lacrosse, as well the death of his beloved mother.
When he was just 16 years old, Powless left Six Nations to pursue a career in lacrosse. He joined the Oshawa Green Gales Junior A lacrosse team where he won four Minto Cup Championships before moving on professionally to become a member of Team Canada.
Over the years, he was fortunate enough to play alongside his brothers and was coached by his father Ross Powless. He broke records and won numerous awards and was given the nickname the "Marvelous Mohawk." Because of this, he was a target on the floor and was forced into an early retirement after enduing years and hacking and slashing. He also had severe back problems.
At age 54, Powless died of Cancer in 2001. Thanks to this book, his memory and legacy will live on. Following his death, an arena where Powless spent many years playing lacrosse was named after him.
Lewis admitted that when she approached the Powless family to begin conducting research for the book, she had worried that they would take exception to the fact that she is non-native. That fact has no relevance whatsoever though, as she couldn't have possibly written a better, more interesting book. The countless hours of research Lewis spent prior to and while writing the biography is evident throughout the book as everything is explained thoroughly.
This fun and easy-to-read book is a great learning tool for young and old alike and can be appreciated by anyone, regardless of their race.
Jordan Standup - The Eastern Door
If the professional game of lacrosse had ever attracted a Canadian television contract like that enjoyed by the National Hockey League, then perhaps the name of Gaylord Powless would be as well-known in this country as is that of Powless's hockey-playing contemporary, Bobby Orr. Because it did not, Gaylord Powless is likely an unknown name to all but serious devotees of lacrosse. Since the game of lacrosse, while Canada's official national summer sport, is not familiar to most Canadians, Lewis wisely begins the book with a chapter entitled "North America's First Team Sport" in which she provides an overview of the history of today's sport of lacrosse which had its roots in Tewaarathon, a game that played an important role in First Nations' culture, especially that of the Mohawk people, the tribal group to which the Powless family belongs. The second chapter, "First There Was Ross," is devoted to Gaylord's father, himself an outstanding lacrosse player and a person who played a significant role in the development of Gaylord's skills.
The remainder of Gaylord's life story is told via 10 more chapters which are essentially presented chronologically. To play at a higher amateur level, Gaylord had to leave his home reserve near Brantford, ON, to play with the Oshawa Green Gaels, a Junior A lacrosse team that enjoyed four consecutive national championships while Gaylord was part of the team. During the championship tournaments, Gaylord was twice named the MVP. Such individual success in amateur hockey would have likely led to a most lucrative professional career, but such was not the case with lacrosse players. Although Gaylord certainly did go on to play lacrosse professionally, the leagues in which he played kept folding, and so he had a very nomadic life. As happened with Bobby Orr, Gaylord's career was shortened by injuries to his knees and back, and, in 1977, at the age of just 30, he retired. However, Gaylord then went on to coach lacrosse for more than two decades. On July 28, 2001, Gaylord succumbed to cancer.
Lewis's main text is augmented by 14 titled boxes which provide brief additional bits of information. For example:
Canada's National Sport: Myth or Fact?
For more than 100 years, most Canadians believed lacrosse was Canada's national sport. But there was not exactly any proof the government did make it officially. In 1994, the government officially named lacrosse Canada's national summer sport. Hockey is the national winter sport.
Fifteen black and white illustrations, almost all them photos and more than half coming from the Powless family collection, are distributed throughout the book. Because of their relatively small size and the quality of the paper on which they were printed, the illustrations are not as effective as they might be. The book concludes with a 38 term lacrosse glossary and three pages of "Acknowledgements" in which Lewis identifies the people and resources which facilitated her writing the book.
Because of the book's brevity, Gaylord does not come "alive" as well as he might have in a longer biography. Since Gaylord had died prior to Lewis's writing this biography, she could only interview relatives and access secondary sources. Consequently, aspects of Gaylord's life, such as the racism he encountered, are only touched upon but not developed. Nonetheless, Lacrosse Warrior is both a fine contribution to the "Recordbooks" series and to the literature about First Nations figures.
Dave Jenkinson, who lives in Winnipeg, MB, is CM's editor.(Dave Jenkinson CM Magazine - Volume 15, Number 10) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.