Native American student-athletes strengthen cultural ties at UMass Boston
Clay Arnold says he and his identical twin brother, Kroy, are “a package deal.” They do just about everything together. They are both members of the Beacons lacrosse team and they coach seventh graders together at BC High School. And they both have the same answer when asked why they came all the way from Syracuse, New York, to play at UMass Boston.
“The entire team just made us feel welcome on our recruiting trip, and we just felt like it was a really good place to be and we just felt like we could make a real impact through our culture and through lacrosse,” said Kroy Arnold, a senior midfielder who is studying history at UMass Boston.
The Arnolds are Native Americans, the group credited with inventing lacrosse. The twins are members of the Haudenosaunee confederacy, which consists of six nations: Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. The twins graduated from Onondaga Community College in Syracuse before enrolling at UMass Boston.
“Culture is really important to us,” said Clay Arnold, who plays attack and is a senior exercise and health sciences major. “I’ve been very fortunate to travel the world playing lacrosse and spreading the message of the history of the game, and through that, my culture, of the Haudenosaunee people.”
The Arnolds display the Haudenosaunee flag in their Boston apartment, and on their helmets (see the green stickers below). Their celebration of their culture has opened up conversations with non-Native friends, teammates, and coaches.
“Coach Tyler Low has been really interested in the culture and the history of the game,” Kroy Arnold said.
“We knew people back at OCC who didn’t even know that Natives were still alive,” Clay Arnold said.
After graduation in May, the Arnolds hope to coach at the college level or go to Wisconsin or Minnesota to teach the game to Native children.
UMass Boston is home to a minor in Native American and indigenous studies and four minority research institutions, including the Institute for New England Native American Studies. The Arnolds were connected to the institute’s director, J. Cedric Woods, after taking a class on Native American women in North America. Another Native student athlete, Garrison Sanipass, became the president of UMass Boston’s Student Alliance for Indigenous Peoples in the Americas after taking a class with Woods and manning UMass Boston’s Pow Wow in April.
Sanipass is a junior business management major from Northbrook, Illinois and a left winger on the men’s hockey team. His father, Everett Sanipass, is a member of the Mi’kmaq and the first Native Canadian to be drafted out of New Brunswick and play in the NHL, for the Chicago Blackhawks. The younger Sanipass didn’t grow up with his dad, so at UMass Boston, he’s had the opportunity to explore his cultural background.
“Coming here and having the class be an option, I was like ‘Why not take it and see what I can learn from it and figure out more about myself?’ because it is something that I’ve always wanted to look more into and I just haven’t really had the chance,” Sanipass said.
"At UMass Boston students can take courses that aren’t just about native peoples, but that engage them in meaningful ways with Native contemporary life both on campus and in some cases within local communities,” Woods said. “Research or academic initiatives also exist which directly connect these students with Native organizations and community members.”
UMass Boston is also home to the Native American Early Childhood Education Scholars Program (NAECES), a pilot program that fully funds the students as they earn a bachelor’s degree in early childhood and education in inclusive settings.