Saskatoon

Lacrosse pros the Thompson brothers #BackTheBraid to stand up for Indigenous culture

The Thompson brothers are backing a social media campaign, #BackTheBraid. The goal is to help people understand the significance of the braid in Indigenous culture.

Education campaign follows ugly racist incident in Philadelphia

Jeremy Thompson, a player with the Saskatchewan Rush, has joined with his brothers for a social media campaign aimed at educating people about the importance of braids in Indigenous culture. (Supplied by the Georgia Swarm)

Professional lacrosse players the Thompson brothers are striking back after a racist incident earlier this year.

While the Thompsons, who hail from the Onondaga Nation in New York, are no strangers to mixing it up physically on the turf, their chosen weapon in this fight is education.

It's a connection to our mother earth.- Jeremy Thompson

It all began when Lyle Thompson, a member of the Georgia Storm, was targeted because of his braid in a game against Philadelphia. He was harassed by fans and the announcer.

Jeremy Thompson, who plays for the Saskatchewan Rush called the incident "disgusting."

Now, the brothers are backing a social media campaign, #BackTheBraid.

Tradition

The campaign aims to help people understand the significance of the braid in Indigenous culture. Jeremy Thompson told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning, that every time he runs out onto the turf with his long braid he carries hundreds of years of tradition with him.

"I think about all the ancestors that had passed on that had played before me whether for the sport or not. I'm a firm believer in that there's a connection that's been passed down," Thompson said. "It's a connection to our mother earth that provides many gifts for us to sustain ourselves here as humans."

A boy and his braids

8 years ago
Duration 2:33
A young Aboriginal boy in Saskatoon is struggling with choosing whether to cut his long hair for school, which holds cultural significance but may invite teasing by classmates
Myles, Lyle and Jerome Thompson all play for the Georgia Swarm. (Georgia Swarm )

Fighting back with information 

The heart of #BackTheBraid is a video where Jeremy speaks about his spirituality and what the braid means to him. Now, all the brothers are speaking up to help people understand why what happened in Philadelphia was so offensive.

"It's just been a connection that's been sacred for us as protection and the medicine in that way."

For the Thompsons, the braid is so connected to the ebb and flow of the universe that the hair is only cut during a full moon and the strands are either cast into a fire or released to nature. The hair is never treated as refuse and placed in the garbage.

The message is not only meant for lacrosse fans, but also for helping young Indigenous boys feel more confident in wearing braids at school. There have been cases where Indigenous kids have been harassed or bullied.

with files from Saskatoon Morning

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