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This new arena will be named in honour of Squamish Nation lacrosse history

'To the Squamish [lacrosse] players and families, Harry Jerome arena is a very special and important place'

The new Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre arena is set to be named in honour of the North Shore’s rich and proud Squamish Nation lacrosse history.

As the old rec centre has long been a home to lacrosse and the sound of beating drums, the City of North Vancouver council strongly supported acknowledging First Nations sporting history at the new centre, for which council approved the latest designs for in April.

Council unanimously passed a motion put forward by Mayor Linda Buchanan for city staff to work in partnership with Squamish Nation to name the centre’s new arena in a way that pays homage to the vast history of lacrosse and its many Indigenous champions, at the May 10 general meeting.

“The vision for the Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre is to be welcoming and inclusive, achieving one of the highest standards of accessibility, and be the social heart of our community,” Buchanan said.

“I believe it should be a place where we actively build cultural harmony. This space should bring people together not only for health and wellness, but it should also be a place that acknowledges and celebrates the culture and history of our city and the traditional territories in which we reside.”

A three-decade lacrosse legacy to be proud of 

At the meeting, Buchanan touched on Squamish Nation’s rich lacrosse history, which dates back to the early 1930s.

She highlighted how Henry Baker was a member of the Olympic lacrosse team representing Canada in the 1932 Los Angeles games, and that in 1935 lacrosse legend Andrew Paull assembled the first all First Nations lacrosse team, the North Shore Indians, to compete for the Mann Cup, the national title at the time.

Over the years, Squamish Nation has had several members inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, and the North Shore Sports Hall of Fame – including Paull in 2019.

The North Shore Indians also have a record of winning many championships at Harry Jerome arena, including three National Senior Lacrosse Championship titles in 1985, 1993 and 2001.

For Syetáxtn, Chris Lewis, Squamish Nation council member and spokesman, who’s also a proud lacrosse player on the North Shore, the arena holds many fond memories, which Buchanan shared at the meeting.

“Growing up in the 1980s and the 1990s, the Harry Jerome arena was the place to be on Friday night to watch senior lacrosse; our three communities would play and go watch the game,” Buchanan read out from a statement from Lewis.

“If you brought your drum, you would get free admission. If you were an upcoming player, you got in for free to watch the older players. Thus, the arena would be packed for senior and junior games.”

He also expressed how the drums would create an environment that would “elevate the game and experience to another level” and competing teams would “either love it or hate it.”

“As a North Shore lacrosse player, the drums gave you extra energy to make every shift count, every game seemed close and exciting,” Lewis stated.  

Lewis said many of the lacrosse greats played on the sacred floor on Lonsdale and many of the all-time greats attended the games, adding that the North Shore had a three-decade legacy to be proud of at Harry Jerome.

Harry Jerome arena is a 'very special and important place'

“To the Squamish players and families, Harry Jerome arena is a very special and important place,” Lewis stated. “I am honoured to work together to find a name for the new arena that keeps the legacy and dynasty of North Shore lacrosse alive.”

Xwechtaal, Dennis Joseph, Squamish Nation Elder, five-time lacrosse champion and grandson of Paull, also gave thanks to council for their commitment to giving the great sport and his people recognition. 

“As vice-president of the North Shore Indians C-B lacrosse team and long time statesman for Squamish Nation, I want to thank you for opening the door to work toward recognition of lacrosse, in particular the naming of a portion of the Harry Jerome Centre to be built soon,” he said.

Joseph went on to say that building relationships through sports has long been a tradition of Squamish people. As well as a lacrosse legend, his grandfather, Paull, is also remembered as a “bridge builder” and an Indigenous rights activist who worked to bring both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together.

“As a lacrosse player for 54 years, I personally want to thank you all for your commitment to work together and to building bridges through sports,” Joseph said. “I’ve seen that in my sport and continue to stand together with people of all colours.

“Our hands are up to you in gratefulness and thankfulness for working together.”

The existing rec centre is slated to close at the end of this year. Council expects construction of the new  $181-million rec centre to start in June 2022 and last until 2025.

Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.