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Sports have an immeasurable impact on Americans’ lives. In some ways, sports are a celebration of American culture; in other ways, they are a reflection of it. Today, lacrosse is among the fastest growing sports in North America (“Fastest Growing Sports”, 2020; Mitchell et al., 2008; Stromgren, 2015) and is being considered for the 2028 Olympics. It may surprise some to learn that the Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nihˀ ancestors played it for centuries prior to the arrival of Europeans to honor their Creator or elders, settle disputes, and heal their communities (Mitchell et al., 2008). They shared their gift which the world enjoys today. This research aims to bring the originators of this beloved game their due acknowledgement and reception. To achieve the goal, a lacrosse uniform was collaboratively designed in Indigenous contexts with the Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nihˀ for Cornell University to wear as a means of honoring the originators of the sport and upon whose lands the team plays. Avoiding the historic practice of stereotyping and appropriating Indigenous knowledge and symbols, the project attempted to design a uniform which was unique, unprecedented, and place based. This approach ensured that the Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nihˀ were represented how they wish to be represented without stealing Indigenous symbols or art. The study’s objectives were: (1) to determine the best practice for collaborating with an Indigenous culture on a uniform which honors said culture without appropriating nor stereotyping it; (2) to ascertain which design factors are most important to Indigenous peoples when designing a collaborative uniform; (3) to determine what impact such a uniform has on a player’s self-perception and connection to the sport. The two research questions addressed were (1) which apparel design features are most important when creating a collaborative uniform in Indigenous contexts and (2) how does such a uniform impact an athlete’s self-perception and/or connection to the sport via enclothed cognition. Apart from decolonizing the modern game of lacrosse, honoring its origins and educating players, the significance of this study is that it sets an example of how to honor Indigenous culture in sports without appropriation or stereotyping. Moreover, this research uses the Functional Expressive and Aesthetic (FEA) Model (Orzada & Kallal, 2021) within the context of the oldest treaty between Europeans and Indigenous North Americans, the Two Row Wampum, a guide for Indigenous – University research partnerships which creates interdependent autonomy by linking the two parties without imposing one belief system upon the other (Hill & Coleman, 2019). Literature Review: Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nihˀ ancestors were occupying the Cayuga Lake region at the end of the last Ice Age (Jordan, 2022). Beginning in 1779, the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫˀ were dispossessed of their ancestorial homeland (Jordan, 2022). Under the Morrill Act, revenue from federal land sales funded colleges (Lee & Ahtone, 2020). In their investigation, Lee and Ahtone tallied “10.7 million acres taken from nearly 250 tribes, bands and communities through over 160 violence-backed land cessions”, Cornell University included (2020). Not only were the lands upon which Cornell University is situated fraudulently obtained, the university’s seed money was similarly exploitative. Given the painful history of dispossession and the ongoing marginalization of Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nihˀ culture, it is crucial that the players understand not only the Indigenous history of the sport and its contemporary perspectives, but also the application of this research as an extension of the land acknowledgement and Two Row Wampum. Methods: Eight Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nihˀ lacrosse players, coaches, and knowledge holders (M = 33.5 yrs, SD = 19.8 yrs) and ten varsity University lacrosse athletes (M = 20.6 yrs, SD = 1.5 yrs) took part in the study with IRB approval #0144267. The FEA Model was applied in both groups. First, the Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nihˀ were interviewed to understand which features of a garment (fit, color, typography, or signifiers) are most impactful when designing a collaborative uniform in Indigenous contexts as well as what message or theme they wanted portrayed through the uniform. Next, this theme was communicated to the lacrosse team to ascertain how a collaborative uniform designed in Indigenous contexts may impact their self-perception. Both recordings were transcribed and analyzed using Atlas.ti from which three design concepts were generated and shown to five participants from each focus group during follow up calls to assess the design’s effectiveness in respectfully honoring the origins of lacrosse. Results: Regarding the uniform’s collaborative process and implementation, all Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nihˀ expressed a desire to see the incorporation of reciprocity and education. Concerning the design’s physical appearance and artistic expression, two themes were present across all Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nihˀ interviews: simplicity and having significance. Of color, fit, typography, and signifiers, signifiers received the highest average ranking followed by color, typography, and fit. All participants ranked either signifiers or color first due to their being strongly related to the cultural meaning behind the design. In the Cornell group, while some participants initially voiced their support of an indigenously inspired design, the prevailing attitude was that there were principles more integral to the team’s culture, namely the memory of their late captain George Boiardi, which should be upheld before any uniform change. Like the Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nihˀ, the lacrosse group identified simplicity and having significance as important to the uniform’s design. Discussion and Conclusion: While both groups praised all designs, the team unilaterally preferred the stickmaker design for its simplicity, subtlety, and upholding of Cornell University lacrosse tradition as it aligned with the Boiardi principles. Most Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nihˀ (80%) picked the bear fur design for its novelty, aesthetics, and resonance with Cornell tradition. Most tellingly, the Cornell players emphasized how the stickmaker concept reflected their blue-collar culture, thereby encapsulating their enclothed cognition. Figure 1 illustrates the elements supported by both participant groups; a prototype was constructed and received positive feedback. The main contribution of this paper is twofold. First, it proposes an anti-colonial uniform which honors its origins in these lands and waters and educates its players while also demonstrating the accompanying requisite respectful reciprocity and educative measures, thereby providing Cornell University with a suggestion on how to polish the Covenant Chain. Second, the project demonstrates to apparel designers how to position themselves in the dialogue concerning respectful reciprocity and education when designing such a uniform. Moving forward, as apparel designers update team uniforms replace their culturally appropriative and stereotypical predecessors, designers may refer to the key considerations of this study to create uniforms which successfully navigate the divide between respectful reciprocity and cultural appropriation in Indigenous contexts. With that being said, the most important tool in a designer’s toolbox is still the pen, just not in their hands: the designer must decentralize the project’s objectives and give agency to the participants to have a respectful and reciprocal collaborative design. Specifically, this project gestures to other land grant universities with lacrosse teams to collaborate with the Indigenous peoples whose lands they occupy to honor the origins of lacrosse in their territories.

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136 pages


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Apparel Design; Cultural Appropriation; Ethnography; Hodinǫ̱hsǫ́:nihˀ; Sports Uniform; Sportswear


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Park, Heeju

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Ghosh, Durba
Richardson, Troy

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Fiber Science and Apparel Design

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M.A., Fiber Science and Apparel Design

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Master of Arts

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dissertation or thesis

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