November is Native American Heritage Month, and for Shayla Scanlan, that’s a big deal. 

Scanlan is a member of Seneca Nation, Wolf Clan, and is believed to be the first Seneca Nation female to sign to play lacrosse at the NCAA Division I level. She is in her junior year at the University of Louisville.

“It’s huge because we only get celebrated for this one month,” she said. “People think lacrosse is a rich white sport. You are able to play this game because of my people, my descendants, my ancestors.”

Scanlan was the winner of the Tewaaraton Native American Scholarship, presented by US Lacrosse, in 2017 after concluding her senior season at Lake Shore Senior High School in Angola, New York.  After some initial homesickness at Louisville, she has now comfortably adjusted to being away from home and from her large family which includes six sisters and four brothers. 

Last season, Scanlan saw action in 18 games for Louisville, starting every game except the season opener. The attacker finished third on the team with 26 goals, collecting 41 shots on goal, eight ground balls, and three draw controls.

“I’m very happy to be in school and happy to be getting the chance to play lacrosse,” said Scanlan, a political science major. “Winning the Tewaaraton scholarship is a big accomplishment and a great honor.”

Kason Tarbell, a member of St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, was a Tewaaraton scholarship winner in 2014. A midfielder, he concluded his collegiate career at Cornell in 2019 after being granted a fifth-year of eligibility due to a season-ending injury in 2018. 

His time at Cornell provided him with many opportunities to share his story with teammates. 

“They asked a lot of questions about my personal journey and about the status of Native American life today,” Tarbell said. “I wasn’t expecting that everybody would be so open.”

Tarbell was a first round selection by the Georgia Swarm in the 2019 NLL Draft and will be starting his first professional season later this month. 

“The Tewaaraton scholarship opened a lot of doors for me,” said Tarbell, who graduated with a degree in development sociology and hopes to begin a Master’s program soon in Public Administration. 

“Obviously, the scholarship had a big financial impact for me, and coupled with other grants, allowed me to graduate with no debt,” he said.

Established in 2006 and sponsored by US Lacrosse, the Tewaaraton’s scholarship program annually recognizes two high school seniors, one Native American male and one Native American female, for academic achievement and lacrosse excellence. Male and female recipients and their families are invited to attend the Tewaaraton Award Ceremony, where the award is presented by US Lacrosse. 

One of the primary goals of the scholarship program is to honor the sport’s Native American roots. Students must be of Haudenosaunee descent, enrolled in a secondary school, and represent the highest ideals of sportsmanship to be eligible for the scholarship. 

“I know I’ve come a long way from the reservation, but I try not to act any differently just because I’m in a different place,” said Scanlan, who enjoys taking some of her Cardinals teammates back to the reservation when she visits home.

“I love sharing my background with my teammates,” she said. “Being Native American comes up in conversation almost every day.”

Each scholarship recipient is awarded $10,000 for education — $5,000 for each of their first and second years in college. 

“We’re proud of our partnership with the Tewaaraton Foundation, as well as the opportunity to provide college scholarship support to Iroquois student-athletes,” said Steve Stenersen, president and CEO of US Lacrosse. “We hope that more Haudenosaunee lacrosse players will aspire to this opportunity in the years to come.” 

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