Considered one of the fathers of modern lacrosse in Canada, Ross Powless was born in Ohsweken Ontario, on the Six Nations of the Grand River in 1926. Belonging to the Turtle clan (Kanien'kehá:ka) of the Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Confederacy, Ross spent five years as a child at the Mohawk Institute Indigenous Residential School in Brantford, Ontario. Lacrosse, the Creator’s game, which holds deep spiritual and cultural significance for the Haudenosaunee people, offered Ross a powerful way to reclaim his heritage after enduring extreme deprivation and isolation from family and culture at residential school.
Ross could not help but raise the profile of lacrosse wherever he played the game. Between 1951 and 1953, he won three consecutive Canadian Senior A championship titles with the Peterborough Timbermen. In 1951 and 1952, he claimed the Tom Longboat Award twice as the most outstanding First Nations athlete in Ontario. In 1953, he was awarded the Mike Kelley Memorial Trophy for Most Valuable Player in Canadian Senior A lacrosse. As player-coach of Hamilton Lincoln Burners Senior “A” team between 1956 and 1958, Ross won every Ontario Lacrosse Association trophy he was eligible to claim, including Top Scorer, Most Valuable Player, Best Defensive Player and Coach of the Year.
Among his many coaching highlights, Ross led the Canadian Senior Men’s Lacrosse Team to defeat the United States at Expo ‘67 in Montreal.
Despite encountering racism, Ross continually broke down barriers for Indigenous peoples. His son, Gaylord Powless, who was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2017, stands out as one of the great lacrosse players taught and inspired by Ross. In 2020, Ross was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame for Lacrosse in the Builder category.
In 2003, Ross Powless passed away, a respected elder in his community.