Most of the information available about Native American lacrosse, sticks, and stick-making concentrates on the Iroquois, but there were many forms of the game. Seme play a version of the game in which two smaller sticks (about 2ft long) are carried by each player. A great deal of the paintings and sketches we see of the early game feature these smaller sticks so some people wrongly assume that they are the predecessors of the longer single sticks.
We visited with lacrosse historian Thomas Vennum, Jr. in Washington, D.C. and discovered that both games have existed simultaneously in different regions for well over a century. Like the Iroquois, the Cherokee take great pride in the art of stick-making. The game is similar throughout Cherokee communities, but the stick crafts are unique. The handle on the sticks from Oklahoma is a solid piece of wood. The wood is steamed, bent around and tied down with rawhide at the base to create the head of the stick.
The sticks from North Carolina, when cut, include half of the handle on each end of the wood strip. When the stick is steam-bent, the two halves are joined with wooden pegs. Holes are drilled and rawhide is weaved in to make a pocket. The hole positions and stringing are unique to every stick and/or stick-maker.
The Great Lakes tribes cut balls from tree knots to ensure density. Holes are drilled through to create 'whistler' balls which whir as they fly through the air. The clubs below are relatively the same size and weight of the sticks used to prepare for the rigors of battle, according to Thomas Vennum, Jr., whose very popular book American Indian Lacrosse, Little Brother of War is available online.
The Iroquois Sticks from New York and Canada are the direct ancestors of the plastic sticks we now use. The stick makers were signed to contracts with a Baltimore distributor who supplied all of the national college teams and locals kids with sticks from the north.
As you can see, the 'traditional' stringing pattern on today's hi-tech heads is identical to the sticks of old.