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HeritageNLL UnitesStories/Op-Ed

The Desert Dogs Are Building Bridges To The Native American Community

The NLL will commemorate the second annual “Every Child Matters” campaign from January 23 – February 12, in which all 15 franchises will participate in a combination of home and away festivities, with players adorning “Every Child Matters” warmup shirts during the three-week stretch of games and helmet decals for the remainder of the 2022-2023 season. The campaign’s objective involves growing consciousness of the forced assignment of Indigenous children in residential and boarding schools, throughout Canada and the United States, during the 19th and 20th centuries. Sadly, this horrific practice continued in Canada throughout much of the 20th century.

While this period of games represents the focal point of “Every Child Matters,” the league and its member franchises have made the history lessons and community outreach aspects of this all-important initiative a year-round undertaking.

The Las Vegas Desert Dogs, San Diego Seals and Halifax Thunderbirds took part in a preseason tournament on the Akwesasne Territory, located at the confluence of Ontario, Quebec and New York State, on Ontario’s Cornwall Island. The event was played at the A’nowara’ko:wa Arena, locally known as the Turtle Dome.

Back home in Las Vegas, the expansion Desert Dogs have made building bridges to the Indigenous and Native American communities a paramount objective.

“We made it a priority to connect and learn more about the 28 federally recognized tribes throughout Nevada. It’s truly been an enlightening experience. We’ve met tremendous community leaders who have been supportive and interested in raising awareness of The Creator’s Game, helping our organization to connect to young athletes who are picking up lacrosse sticks for the first time,” said Las Vegas CEO, Mark Fine.

The Desert Dogs will host “Indigenous Heritage Night” on February 4, when the defending champion Colorado Mammoth visit Michelob ULTRA Arena. The event will include performances from groups presented in consultation with Native American tribes of Nevada. In addition, complimentary tickets and transportation to the February 4 contest will be provided to Indigenous and Native communities, in coordination with the Strong Roots Charitable Foundation.

Separate from their relationship with the Desert Dogs, the Strong Roots Charitable Foundation has previously donated a permanent lacrosse box and 700 lacrosse sticks to the Iroquois National Development Program, of which some residents of the aforementioned Akwesasne community are a part of.

Las Vegas kicked off its Native American community outreach in early December when hosting a clinic at Las Vegas Sportspark, the team’s practice facility. Tribes from Nevada, northwest Arizona, along with participants in the Clark County School District Indian Education Opportunity Program were able to get up close and personal with coach Shawn Williams, along with a group of Las Vegas players. The relationship continued when members of the Indigenous and Native communities were offered comped tickets to the club’s inaugural home game on December 16.

With NLL Commissioner Brett Frood’s steadfast belief in the importance of the “Every Child Matters” campaign, the Desert Dogs will play a key role in these efforts moving forward.

“Watching our team come together for a youth clinic and saying a prayer wishing us luck prior to our first game is something that will always stay with us. I can’t say enough about how rewarding this experience has been for all members of our organization,” explained Fine.

To learn more about the Indigenous ties to our game, visit the Heritage resource page of NLL Unites at this link.

NLL