Delby Powless, Medicine Game (Powless Publishing: 2020). 249 pp.

If you’re a lacrosse fan, then Six Nations’ lacrosse star-turned author Delby Powless’ Medicine Game is the book for you. The novel is a modern-day story of the fictional Sparrow Lake Nation and follows the life of a young Tommy Henry.

For the people of Sparrow Lake, lacrosse is more than just a game – it’s a gift from the Creator and is to be played with a good mind and a strong heart.

Medicine Game is the story of Tommy Henry and his life in Sparrow Lake. Events from Tommy’s childhood start him down a path where he has violent outbursts and makes him prone to fighting. Tommy’s father Beau was a lacrosse star in his youth and was also known to fight and for his tendency to drink.

The only place where Tommy seems to feel natural is on the lacrosse field. However, he too turns to drinking and must find a way to deal with the demons from his past. Beau has to help his son fight the same battle he did as a young man.

The fictional Sparrow Lake Nation is a Mohawk community located in Upstate New York and could really be any Haudenosaunee community. Medicine Game offers a glimpse into life in a Haudenosaunee and into the lives of some of the familiar characters and personalities.

Powless is a former lacrosse star who played for the Iroquois Nationals at the international level. He won the Champions Cup with the Buffalo Bandits in 2008, the Major League Lacrosse Championship with the Toronto Nationals in 2009. He was also the recipient of the 2003 Tom Longboat Award, as Canada’s top Indigenous athlete.

Powless said that writing this book was a way for him to let people know it’s okay to talk about their mental health.

“I guess writing this book was a way of letting people know about some of my own mental health struggles,” he said. “And maybe let people know it’s alight to talk about it. It was pretty tough to write about some of this stuff and was emotional at times, but it was also really therapeutic for me to write about.”

Powless added that Medicine Game is fiction, but based on some true events. He said that he originally wrote the story six years ago as a screenplay. He he sent it around but got a lot of “thanks, but no thanks” responses and he put the story on the shelf for a few years. He then decided to turn it into a novel and worked on it when he could.

“I would go months without doing anything sometimes, so it was a long process,” Powless explained.

He said he chose to write about lacrosse for several reasons.

“I wrote about lacrosse because it’s what I know and hoping people who don’t know the game may learn a bit about it,” Powless said. “Of course, with it being a Medicine Game it just made sense to include it as a way of healing.”

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Photo by Greg Horn