There are meaningful ties between the Rush organization and Indigenous communities that have been blossoming over the last decade. Heading into this NLL season, Marshall Powless – the lone Indigenous player on the team – is now ready to bear the responsibility of being a beacon of hope and a guiding light to Indigenous youth.
When Jeremy Thompson of Onondaga Nation joined the Edmonton Rush for the 2013 season, he swiftly and effectively made great efforts to make strong connections with the Indigenous communities in Alberta. In 2016, when the team moved to Saskatchewan, Jeremy was a leading member of the championship-winning Rush. He continued to use his lacrosse skillset and stardom to grow the game within Indigenous communities that were embracing this sport that was deeply rooted in their people’s history. A couple of years later, Jeff Shattler, of Ojibwe-Inuit descent, joined the Rush, and he, too, made incredible efforts to provide opportunities to get exposure to and play lacrosse.
Both Thompson and Shattler are no longer with the Rush, but Powless is, and he has learned so much from his Indigenous predecessors as to how he can become an equally impactful member within the province’s Indigenous communities. Powless understands the gravity of taking on this type of role, but he is ready to live us to the high standards set before him.
“I think with me now being the only Indigenous player on the team, it puts a little bit more pressure on me to have to hold to the standard that Jeff [Shattler] set,” Powless said. “I’m going to really have to try to come close to what he’s done and meet those expectations that he set.”
Aside from having a passion and a background of working with Indigenous youth – he has worked with Spartan Lacrosse – Powless had the privilege of working alongside Shattler at various events when Shattler was still in the league.
“When I worked at Standing Buffalo [with Shattler], a lot of those kids hadn’t played before because it’s not a big thing out there,” Powless said. “But, I feel like because they have [lacrosse] in their blood – it’s in their DNA – there were a few kids who were able to pick up the game really quickly and excel at it. By the end of the camp, they were able to pass catch and shoot.”
“It’s really a blessing to my spirit when I see kids having fun and trying a new sport, especially when it has ties to my background,” Powless said. “It really makes me happy to see that.”
What keeps Powless excited about teaching the game is that, beyond allowing these children to embrace a part of their culture, he sees the joy many of them feel when playing the game that has given him so much.
Powless, a 22-year-old patient fisherman in his spare time, understands that it will take time for him to make a similar impact as Shattler and Thompson have, but he is already setting the groundwork to make a name for himself.
Over the last couple of years, Powless has spent time communicating with lacrosse coaches of the Native American Indigenous Games Team Saskatchewan – he has been in talks to help coach the girl’s team. If he joins the coaching staff, the next NAIG will be in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next year.
There will be many other opportunities to be a leader in the province’s Indigenous communities, especially if he continues to exemplify what it means to be an upstanding member of the Rush while improving as a player and a teammate. His drive to make a difference, and his innate ability to be kind and understanding, matched with having been mentored by influential Indigenous lacrosse-playing men, will help Powless become the leader he dreams of being.
“I would like to be a role model and to have young people look up to me and ask me questions about how they can improve their game,” Powless said. “I want kids to have affordable programs where kids in the Indigenous communities can better their game. All I want in life is to help the next person in line and help them get to where they want to go and achieve their dreams.”
By Adam Levi