FULTON – Fourth graders from the Fulton City School District had the opportunity to meet a world-renowned lacrosse stick maker, Alfred Jacques of the Onondaga Nation’s Turtle Clan.
The presentation coincided with the students’ class learning of the Iroquois Nation.
Jacques showed the students a handmade Hiawatha wampum belt (strands of purple and white shells used centuries ago as currency), which symbolizes the original five nations united by the Peacemaker.
The tree symbol in the center represents both The Great Tree of Peace and the Onondaga Nation while the squares symbolize the other four five nations: the Seneca, the Cayuga, the Oneida and the Mohawk.
The Fulton fourth graders were able to remember and recite all nations in order from left to right on the wampum belt.
Dey-Hon-Tshi-Gwa’-Ehs, or Lacrosse, has been appreciated by the Onondagas and the Haudenosaunee for a very long time.
For more than 50 years, Jacques has been their professional stick maker.
At five years old, Jacques’ grandmother, a basket maker, handed him a jack knife and splints and told him to watch and do as she did.
“A knife is a tool,” he told the students during his presentation. “It is not a play thing or a weapon.”
This was the start of Jacques’ wood-working capabilities.
Lou Jacques, the late master lacrosse carver, was Alfred’s father, who taught him how to make a lacrosse stick at the age of 12.
The creation of a lacrosse stick is not an easy or short process.
From the cutting of a tree to the steaming and bending of the stick, a handmade wooden lacrosse stick can take several months to make, as the wood requires time to dry.
Each stick custom made by Jacques costs approximately $350.
Jacques, who is a professional box lacrosse player himself, told the students that the sport of lacrosse serves as both play and religious tradition for Native Americans, as it is a medicine game that “keeps the people alert.”
For this reason, Jacques creates his lacrosse sticks for his people first, outside customers second.