When the Salamanca and Akron varsity lacrosse teams came to Hills Field recently to square off against Gowanda in a Section 6 Class C boys game, everything during the pre-game warmups looked normal. However, once the ball was dropped for the opening faceoff, it was obvious that a first time occurrence was about to take place.
During the game, as each team proceeded to put the ball into their opponent's net on the field, a group of Gowanda Middle School students sat high above in the press box taking turns describing the play by play over the public address system to the crowd in attendance. And for the first and second time ever during a local sporting event, only the Seneca language was used.
The five Gowanda Middle School students who took their turn at the microphone were: Da:di' Jones, Wyatt Jones, Lyle Warrior, Kali Isaac and Stevie John. Included in their narration of the game was the name of the players that scored and assisted after each goal, the score of the game and how many goals each player had scored during the contest. Both of the Gowanda's opponents (Salamanca and Akron) also have many players on their roster that are Native American. As a result, many of the players and spectators could understand the language and appreciate the effort that was put forth by this group of seventh and eighth grade middle-school students.
The idea of having the students announce a lacrosse game in Seneca language was devised by the student's teacher, Jacky Yallup. The former Jacky Snyder is a 2001 graduate of Gowanda Central School and has been teaching Seneca language for the past two years at her alma mater.
"It's a proud day when your students are acknowledged for their efforts and contributions towards our language," she commented. Mrs. Yallup has also been very involved in the Newtown Minor Lacrosse Association and would like to see more local lacrosse games announced in their native Seneca language.
Dave Smith, the Gowanda Middle School principal, was also impressed by the courage and initiative that was shown by the students to use their Native language in such a public forum and honor the game that is so sacred to their Native American culture. Smith commented, "I am very proud of the students, under the direction of Mrs. Yallup, for all of their hard work".