The NLL’s ‘Every Child Matters’ Shirt Honors Indigenous Culture and an Uncomfortable History

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The National Lacrosse League (NLL) is paying tribute to Indigenous children and the sport’s connection to Indigenous culture with a special “Every Child Matters” initiative this weekend.

As part of the recently launched NLL Unites, the league’s first-ever Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, each of the 12 teams will don specially designed orange “Every Child Matters” warmup shirts this weekend.

The custom-designed shirt sheds light on an uncomfortable history by honoring children who attended Indigenous Residential Schools where attempts were made to strip them of their culture and heritage.

Some made it out. Others, sadly, did not. 

“This is a perfect time for a professional sport, particularly the National Lacrosse League to spread awareness and foster Truth and Reconciliation across our country,” said Dave Sowden from the Halifax Thunderbirds’ and teacher on the Six Nations Reserve (Oliver M. Smith Kaweniio Elementary). “If not for the resiliency of First Nations people across Canada and the United States, we may not be enjoying the fact that we can take part in the medicine game – spectators, players, coaches, and everyone else who helps to bring a game together.”

The design elements of the shirt each have a special meaning.

The handprint represents the uniqueness of every individual. The orange color comes from the story of a survivor who obtained an orange shirt in hopes of wearing it while attending a residential school. She soon learned that she was to dress like everyone else and expected to wear the provided clothing. And the feathers represent indigenous culture.

“This presents an opportunity for the NLL, its teams and its players to unify and show our commitment to educating our fans about their shared commitment to recognizing the history of residential and boarding schools, and supporting Indigenous causes,” said NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz in the release. “We are proud to include this program in NLL Unites as another initiative in our continued education of the Indigenous culture and of the people who created the great game of lacrosse.”

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