Blake Maracle connected to Tyendinaga

This story was published in the Winter 2023 issue of Total Sports Quinte magazine

Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Media

Blake Maracle is a long way from home, but he always feels a connection to Tyendinaga.

After first going to The Frederick Gunn School in Connecticut last year for a high school victory lap, the 19-year-old is now playing NCAA lacrosse for the Limestone University Saints in South Carolina. His home in Tyendinaga is surrounded by woods and he relishes the time spent in the outdoors walking through them.

“It built a special connection and you don’t even really realize it until you’re away,” Maracle said. “I find that I’m here at school and even last year it wasn’t necessarily that I was missing my house and my bed, I missed walking through the woods, being outside back home.”

Lacrosse provides another connection, reminding Maracle of home. It can be as simple as being by himself on the field with just his lacrosse stick and ball.

“As I grew up people wanted to go do other things and that was fine, but I wanted to keep playing lacrosse so I’d be out in the field playing by myself so if I’m here and I’m by myself it’s almost like I’m back at home again,” he said, noting he’s regularly in touch with family and friends in Tyendinaga.

“Just keeping in contact with everybody from back home helps me stay connected and they keep me up to date with things that they’re doing and what’s going on.”

Maracle attended Quinte Mohawk School for a few years when he was younger, though ultimately attended school in Napanee. One way to keep in touch with friends was through lacrosse.

“We would go to an outdoor arena to play some box lacrosse and that’s how we would keep our connection,” he said.

His heritage means a lot to him and has continued to learn about it, starting all the way back when he was no longer attending school in Tyendinaga.

“Since then I’ve picked up a few things and just as I’m getting older and more mature I’m able to sit and listen to some of the elders and other knowledge keepers and really understand about my people and our history and our culture and why it’s important to know these things and teach the younger kids as they’re growing up,” Maracle said. “It’s a big part of our life and I want to learn as much as I can just so I can pass on that knowledge.”

Maracle, who took up the sport about 10 years ago, has long desired to play lacrosse at a high level. He was inspired from a young by Indigenous players Lyle and Miles Thompson, who are brothers, and their cousin Ty Thompson.

After playing his entire minor box lacrosse years with the Kingston Krossfire, Maracle was hoping to play junior with Tyendinaga but the team ultimately folded during COVID shutdowns. He went on to play for the Peterborough Jr. Lakers instead. He also added playing field lacrosse with Evolve into the mix at the club level as well as in high school at Eastside Secondary School in Belleville.

Eventually he landed at the Gunn prep school to get an extra year of high school and showcase his skills in the United States.

“I think it was really beneficial to go down there, just right away for the experience of being away from home,” Maracle said. “It’s not near as far away as I am now, but it still gave me that distance to see what it was like.

“From a lacrosse standpoint, we were practising every single day and I was playing against some really good defenders so it really opened my eyes to see what I would be facing once I got to the college level.”

Maracle said playing at the NCAA level now is “a big wake-up call” as he goes from being a top player on his previous teams to sitting lower on the depth chart now at Limestone.

“It’s just one of those things being a freshman. We’ve got a really big roster and everyone is just really good so you’ve got to pick your moments, when they come to you’ve got to capitalize on them,” he said. “Any time I go out there I try to make something happen.”

Last August in Winnipeg, Maracle was invited to join team Haudenosaunee, recognized as an independent nation from Canada’s entry, at the IIJL World Junior Lacrosse Championship. Joining Canada and Haudenosaunee were the United States, Australia, Poland and Israel. Haudenosaunee earned the silver medal.

“It wasn’t the ending we were hoping for, we lost to Team Canada, but it was still pretty special for us,” Maracle said. “We’re hoping to go out and win next year.

“Not very many people get that chance to play in such a big tournament so it was a dream come true to be able to represent our people and go and play on the international stage,” he added.

Maracle will keep working towards his goal of playing professional lacrosse someday whether that’s in box or field lacrosse.