pakitahantaawi! Let’s Play Lacrosse!

Peekitahaminki, ‘Lacrosse’ is one of our favorite games to play as a community. We start playing each year with the arrival of Summer which is ushered in by the ciinkwiaki, ‘Thunder Beings’ which is the first thunderstorm after Winter has ended. 

One of the times we get to play all together as a community is during the Annual Community Game that we play during Annual Gathering Week in Miami, Oklahoma. This year the game took place on Friday, June 24. Community members gathered on the field next to our stomp grounds. 

There were about forty people of all ages that gathered on the field to play together and plenty more spectators. The players were separated into two teams and given lacrosse sticks to play with and then were gathered in the middle of the field to start the game. Once the ball was tossed into the air the teams surged into action trying to catch the ball and force the play to their opponent’s goal. Both teams had plenty of possessions of the ball throughout the game, taking many shots on both goals and play crisscrossing all over the field. The heat was intense and all the players were exhausted, but excitement stayed high throughout the game. In the end, only one goal was successfully scored winning the game for one of the teams

To prepare for next year’s game, read on to learn more about peekitahaminki and improve your skills.

What you will need:

Goalposts should be set up on either end of your lacrosse field. The posts should be about 10 feet tall and a few inches in diameter, we usually use large PVC pipes stuck vertically into the ground for these. 

You will also need pakitahaakana ‘lacrosse sticks’ and a pakwaahkoni ‘lacrosse ball’.


  1. No touching the ball with your hands or grabbing other players’ sticks.
  2. No hitting other players with your stick and avoid hitting other players sticks as much as possible to avoid injury.
  3. No entering the crease around the goal post. The crease is a circle that has a radius of five feet. It extends around the goalpost and no players from either team can enter. If the ball stops within the crease then the team defending that goalpost gets to take it out and throw it up the field to their teammates.


Certain skills are needed to help the players get the advantage over the other team such as scooping, cradling, and shooting. 

Scooping the ball will differ depending on which kind of stick you have as the hoops can be shaped differently. Scooping is simply how we get the ball off of the ground with our sticks. Because we can’t touch the ball with our hands we have to learn to use our sticks to pick up the ball from the ground. With a traditional lacrosse stick, you will have to move your stick in a fast circular motion around the ball, keeping the lip of the hoop just under the ball and snapping your wrist in an upward motion to get the ball in the hoop. For a stick with a flat net, players can simply get lower to the ground and keep their stick at a shallow angle to the ground before pushing their stick under the ball and picking it up. 

Cradling will also change depending on your stick. Cradling is how we keep the ball in the hoop of our sticks as we are running down the field. For a traditional lacrosse stick, it’s easiest to hold the stick with one hand, keeping the hoop away from your body and moving your wrist in a figure-eight motion that should keep the ball in your hoop. For the other kind of lacrosse stick, using both hands to hold the stick with your hand closer to the net rocking the stick back and forth to keep the ball in the pocket (the deepest part of the net).

For shooting the traditional lacrosse stick it is important to keep in mind that the hoop will make it hard to follow through with your shot, so the ball will need to be released when the stick is about parallel to the goal post. For the other type of stick, the ball should be released when the stick is perpendicular to where you are shooting.

All of these skills will take time and practice to adjust to and get good at, so don’t be frustrated if the moves are not very familiar to you at first, but know that every time you play you will get a little better every time.

How to Play:

Both teams will gather in the center of the field and one person will hold the game ball and shout to the teams šaaye-nko kiilwa?, ‘Are you all ready?’ and the teams will respond šaaye niiloona, ‘We are ready!’. The person with the ball will then count to three, nkoti, niišwi… nihswi!

There are two ways to start the game; either with a tossed ball start or a face-off. For a tossed ball start, on three the ball will be tossed in the air and members from both teams will try to gain possession of the ball to take it to their end of the field.

If there are players that aren’t playing with our traditional lacrosse sticks which are the sticks with circular hoops, then the game can also begin with a face-off. 

Myaamia students playing lacrosse
Myaamia students playing lacrosse during their Heritage Class at Miami University. The player in the lead holds a traditional lacrosse stick. Photo by Jonathan M. Fox

In a face-off, two players will meet in the middle of a circle at the center of the field facing each other. They will crouch down, in a sprinter-like stance, and place their sticks on the ground so the sticks are parallel to each other. The backs of each sticks’ hoop will be lined up next to the other hoop and between them, the ball will be placed. The butts and hoops of the sticks should be touching the ground and the players will be holding on to the sticks with both hands ready to move. 

All other team members will wait outside along the circle’s edge. The circle itself isn’t usually marked on the field but is represented by where the team members are standing. Older players can help new ones figure out how close or where to stand if there is any confusion.

The same call and responses will be shouted out, but the only difference is on three only the two players facing off can get possession of the ball. No one else can enter the circle until one of the players has either clearly gained possession of the ball or the ball has gone outside the circle.

From there the game is the same and both teams will try to win possession of the ball from the other. 
Once one team scores then the process begins again, either in a face-off or a tossed ball in the middle of the field. When the teams meet in the middle they will be asked taaninhswi eehtooyiikwi? ‘How many do you all have?’ and both teams will respond with their current score.

The teams can decide before they play how long the game will last, but there is no set duration for the games. When the game is finally over whichever teams responds with the higher score wins! 

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Updated: August 5, 2022

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