FORT COVINGTON — Their shoes pressed down on the rain-soaked grass blades with each stride.
Piff, piff, piff, piff piff piff.
Sticks creating music atop a drum bass.
The Salmon River girls’ lacrosse team has been melodic all season.
Goals by the dozen. Defensive stops on the regular.
Crisp passing. Effortless saves.
Poetry in motion.
But the song the Shamrocks played on their home field Saturday — a game in which they won, 25-9, against their rival Massena Red Raiders — was about remembrance. Awareness.
“I play for my family (and) all the missing and murdered Indigenous women,” midfielder Wynter Jock said, who finished with six goals and six assists.
The Shamrocks and Red Raiders dedicated their game to all Indigenous women who are yet to be found or have been lost to violence.
“The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is a movement — there’s (thousands of) cases across the United States and Canada that report women who are missing,” Salmon River head coach Ron LaFrance said. “And there’s very little resolution … it’s shocking and disturbing.”
Each player on the Shamrocks wore green and white jerseys, with the green saturated by a yellowish tint in the center. Also at the center, were the eyes of a woman. Below the eyes was a red handprint — one identical to the ones painted on each player’s calf, in orange.
The players’ letters didn’t read “Salmon River.” It didn’t read “Shamrocks.” They were MMIW (Missing, Murdered, Indigenous Women) memoriam jerseys.
If one makes a trip to Akwesasne — Indigenous land, home to every Salmon River girls’ lacrosse player and eight Massena girls’ lacrosse players — they will see them.
Atop the bridge, overlooking the St. Regis River, they are there by the dozens.
Shoes. They rest on the bridge’s walking pavement.
The only accompanying sound is the wind and vehicles whipping down Route 37.
Some are sneakers. Some are crocs. Some are high heels.
Some are the tiny shoes of infants.
Above the vigil, is an orange t-shirt wrapped around the post, bearing three words.
“Every Child Matters.”
The memorial was placed in response to the discovery of a mass grave last week, where the remains of 215 First Nations children were found in a former Kamloops Indian Residential School in Canada.
Canada, in the 19th century, was the site of a system of “residential schools,” according to a report from the New York Times.
“The Canadian government would kidnap native children,” LaFrance said. “What they learned in those residential schools was not education. It was more like prison.”
Indigenous children were forced into the buildings. The system did not fall into a decline until the 1970s. The last school did not close until 1996.
“Some of our people refer to them as concentration camps,” LaFrance said.
According to the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a report from the Times, the genocide of thousands of Indigenous children is believed to have allegedly taken place at the institutions.
“Today, we’re here to honor those women who never made it home,” LaFrance said. “It’s not just women. It’s girls.”
Saturday’s game wasn’t going as fluid as the Shamrocks would have liked, either. Not until the skies opened up in the second half and help fell from the heavens.
“They say, ‘water’s life,’” LaFrance said. “I think we came out a little bit sluggish. As soon as it started to rain, that picked up our girls.”
The Shamrocks led 10-8, at the break.
“I told them at halftime, if we don’t smarten up and straighten up, we’re going to lose,” LaFrance said.
During and following the rain shower in the game’s final 20 minutes, the Shamrocks outscored the Red Raiders 15-1.
Completing Saturday’s game was a way to honor Tribe members and Indigenous families who are still looking for answers, LaFrance said.
“The medicine game of lacrosse is a healing game,” he said. “How it relates to what we dedicated the game to is, the healing for those families who don’t have closure. Who are still waiting.”