National Lacrosse League launches 2nd year of Every Child Matters campaign

Last month the National Lacrosse League launched its campaign in support of Every Child Matters for the second year.

All 15 teams in U.S. and Canada participating

National Lacrosse League players face off wearing Every Child Matters practice shirts. (

Warren Hill, a goaltender for the National Lacrosse League's Halifax Thunderbirds, looked up from his net and saw a sea of orange at a recent game.

Fans had donned orange Every Child Matters shirts, recognizing Indigenous children who were taken from their homes to attend residential and boarding schools in Canada and the United States.

"It's awesome to see the different shirts that are in the crowd, being there and looking up and people have their orange on," said Hill, who is from Six Nations, Ont.

Last month the National Lacrosse League (NLL), a men's professional lacrosse league with teams in the U.S. and Canada, launched its second year of a campaign of support for Every Child Matters. The program runs three weeks, then players will wear an Every Child Matters decal on their helmets for the remainder for the season.

All 15 NLL teams participate.

Hill said the residential schools campaign is especially important on their platform, since lacrosse has Indigenous roots.

"Being able to share that unfortunate history goes a long way," said Hill.

"Any way that we can promote it and spread awareness is good." 

This campaign aims to "facilitate meaningful conversations about the atrocities perpetrated by the residential and boarding school systems, continue the journey toward reconciliation, and honour survivors and their families," said NLL Commissioner Brett Frood in a statement. 

For every shirt sold, the NLL will donate the proceeds to the Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund in Canada and the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition in the United States.

The NLL has also conducted youth programs and clinics in Indigenous communities, and shared video messaging about the Every Chils Matters campaign on TSN and ESPN and their social media channels to increase awareness.

Growing up, Hill's family didn't talk about residential schools.

"I've had grandparents in residential schools and obviously it wasn't till older that those stories start kind of coming out at that time. They just let us be kids, right," said Hill.

Warren Hill, goaltender for the Halifax Thunderbirds, wears an Every Child Matters decal on his helmet. (Submitted by Warren Hill)

He recalled taking his grandfather to the theatre to see Indian Horse thinking it was a sports movie about Indigenous people and hockey. It deals with a young First Nations boy's abuse at residential school and how that affects him as an adult.

"I don't think he was necessarily in residential school," said Hill.

"I believe my grandma was, but I'll just say it was kind of a quiet ride home."

His grandfather spoke briefly about his friends' experiences at residential school on the car ride, but Hill knew further discussion wasn't welcome so he didn't pry.

"I remember the movie theatre being quiet and this was before more of this residential stuff came out," said Hill, referring to the discovery of unmarked burials at former residential school sites in Canada.

Inclusive design

Justin Gilbert, who was born and raised on the Southern Ute Reservation in southwest Colorado, designed the Every Child Matters logo for the NLL. It features a child wearing a ribbon shirt holding a lacrosse stick.

Gilbert said he wanted his design to be inclusive yet simple enough to be recognizable and impactful on a T-shirt.

"There's so many different tribes that were affected by boarding schools and residential schools from Canada down to southern United States," he said.

He drew a traditional lacrosse stick being carried by the child in a way that symbolizes "he's not giving it up," just like their Indigenous culture, described Gilbert.

Gilbert said his community has been searching the grounds of a former boarding school and Colorado will be releasing a report of their findings in the next few months.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Mental health counselling and crisis support is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or online at


Candace Maracle is Wolf Clan from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Toronto Metropolitan University. She is a laureate of The Hnatyshyn Foundation REVEAL Indigenous Art Award. Her latest film, a micro short, Lyed Corn with Ash (Wa’kenenhstóhare’) is completely in the Kanien’kéha language.