As the saying goes, ‘Everything is bigger in Texas.’ Well, with Jeremy Thompson playing in Fort Worth for Panther City Lacrosse Club, the Lone Star State has one of the game’s biggest ambassadors for growing the Creator’s Game within Indigenous communities and beyond.
The Indigenous communities of Texas do not have the same connection to lacrosse as many of the tribes in the North-Eastern parts of North America. Yet, their values and history forever link them.
When Thompson played his first home game at Dickies Arena with the NLL’s newest expansion team last season, he was honored by local Indigenous leaders with culturally significant gifts. These types of efforts moved Thompson because no matter where he’s traveled during his playing career, he has always made an effort to connect with the Indigenous communities.
“When it comes to my travels, when I go to different territories, I’m interested to see what [other tribes] are doing and what they’re up to,” Thompson said. “It’s been easy for me to transition [to being in Forth Worth] because, from my first game with Panther City, I was gifted some of our sacred tobacco… I was also gifted an eagle feather. When you’re gifted an eagle feather, it’s a special occasion because the eagle has a special representation for us in our culture.”
“I wasn’t expecting anything of this magnitude. It was an emotional moment to see the support. It’s amazing to see, and that’s also how it was when I was in Saskatchewan – when natives come to new territories, we continue to support each other.”
Since he began playing for PCLC last December, Jeremy has steadily increased his presence and influence around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan area. He has not only been working with the Urban Inter-Tribal Center of Texas to help the indigenous populace, but he has also found that numerous local business people and national corporations want to work with him increase Indigenous exposure and awareness.
Jeremy, along with Miles, Lyle and Jerome Thompson are also always working with their 4 The Future Foundation which is aimed at growing the game within Indigenous communities. Thompson also sees this moment in history as a pivotal one for all Indigenous people of North America.
“It’s huge to have companies like AT&T and other brands reach out,” Thompson said. “I think that when it comes to being inclusive, you’re starting to see that more because the indigenous people throughout the country and the world are seeing what’s really been going on. We’re getting a lot of support from our non-native brothers and sisters because they’re seeing how this country developed and the history of what has been done to our Indigenous families.”
“Everything that came about with the graves found at residential schools – it’s really changed the mindset of our non-native brothers and sisters. They are really trying to be inclusive because [the past] can’t be hidden anymore.”
This cultural movement is coinciding with a continuing influx of Indigenous talent on both the collegiate and professional stages. Only a couple of decades ago, it was just a handful of Indigenous talents who had fought their way to becoming an all-star caliber player in the NLL ranks. Now, there are often one or two (at least) elite Indigenous players on each NLL team or at the top collegiate lacrosse programs. Thompson reflected on just how different things are today from when he was at university.
“When it comes to inclusivity in the NLL, you’ve seen the number of indigenous players bump up a lot, and I think it will continue to go up way more,” Thompson said. “I think we have a lot of talent on many of the territories, and I believe they should have equal opportunity to have a tryout.”
“When I was in college, there was only a handful of us, and before me, there were even less” Thompson said. “You can see over the last 11 seasons since I became a professional coming from a collegiate career, there weren’t many people coming through that way. Now you probably have like 30-40 kids trying to go out there and play DI and DII.”
Texas may not currently be a hotbed for lacrosse, but there are plenty of signs that the tides are turning. Thompson is leading that charge, whether at the grassroots or corporate levels, to provide equal opportunity for Indigenous youth to play lacrosse.
Few Indigenous players currently in the NLL are more respected and have a bigger platform to make a difference in the community. Jeremy Thompson plans to take full advantage of this moment to help shape a better and brighter future for hopeful Indigenous lacrosse players.
By Adam Levi