Niagara Gazette — In the opening scene of the movie “Crooked Arrows,” young native Americans with painted faces race through the woods chasing after a leather ball, giving movie goers a glimpse of the the roots of an ancient tradition.
That fast-paced, exciting scene fades into current time, introducing a rag-tag group of native lacrosse players who seem to have lost their mojo. And that is probably the most unlikely part of a recently released movie starring three young men from the Tuscarora reservation in Sanborn. It’s pretty clear that nobody they know would ever lose their passion for lacrosse.
Just how important is lacrosse to Native Americans?
“Very very important. It’s woven right into us from birth and into the next life,” according to Joanne Weinholtz the Native American historical director at the Tuscarora Indian School in Sanborn.
”Crooked Arrows,” which opened recently across the nation, and which played briefly in the Niagara region, showcases a Native American lacrosse team’s taking a shot at glory as they play their way through a prep school lacrosse tournament.
The movie features several local Tuscarorans, Emmett Printup IV, Aaron Printup, James Bissell, who each won their spots though auditions which were held around the county. The movie is pretty standard sports movie plotline, but it focuses on the importance of lacrosse in the native culture.
”It’s a ‘Bad News Bears,’ with a native twist,” said Bissell
The three young Tuscarorans had to make a two month commitment to the production and worked many long days not actually playing lacrosse but “acting lacrosse,” as Bissell noted. However, many of their family and friends were able to appear in the movie as well. Bissell’s wife, Arien, played a cheerleader on the Crooked Arrows cheer squad.
Also, in a scene where the native team takes on a wealthy prep school team, they are surprised by the appearance of a crowd full of boosters, played by family and friends who rode buses chartered by the Iroquois nation, including three buses from Tuscaroara, which provided extras for the scene.