2017 / Morning Session

AMERICAN INDIAN
STICKBALL

Southeastern Style Stickball: Creation of the Game
ORIGIN OF THE GAME

OLDEST TEAM SPORTS IN NORTH AMERICA

Much like the game of the tribal ancestors, today stickball is bringing tribal people and communities together in school yards and college campuses across the southern states. Many of the southeastern tribes in the U.S. are beginning to see more games being played at tribal festivals and tournaments.

The modern game of stickball is in fact experiencing such a resurgence that several tribal tournaments are being held annually across the nation, such as, the Jim Thorpe Games and the Choctaw Labor Day Festival. The World Series hosted by the Mississippi band of Choctaws in Philadelphia, Mississippi is “arguably the biggest, most hotly con-tested Indigenous ballgame in the country.”

01.

NORTH AMERICAN

INDIGENOUS STICKBALL

Native American stickball is considered to be one of the oldest team sports in North America. Stickball and lacrosse are similar to one another, the game of lacrosse being a tradition belonging to tribes of the Northern United States and Canada; stickball, on the other hand, continues in Oklahoma and parts of the Southeastern U.S. where the game originated. Although the first recorded writing on the topic of stickball was not until the mid-17th century, there is evidence that the game had been developed and played hundreds of years before that.

02.

HISTORICAL RECORDING

PLAYED BY JESUIT PRIESTS

The earliest historical reference to Choctaw stickball was a Jesuit priest’s account of a stickball game around 1729. During that period, the Choctaws lived in towns and villages scattered across the area that is now southern Mississippi . When disputes arouse between these communities, stickball provided a peaceful way to settle the issue. These games were hard-fought contests that could involve as few as twenty or as many as 300 players.

03.

CULTURAL PRESERVATION

KEEPING PEACE

The historical game played a huge role in the peace kept between tribes who played it. The game was not only used as a way to settle disputes and grievances among the many tribes but was also played to toughen young warriors for combat, for recreation, as part of festivals, and for the bets involved. Often before the game was even played terms would be set and agreed upon and the losing team would have no choice but to accept the outcome. If a tribe did not accept the terms of the game, the dispute often would end in battle.

INDIGENOUS

GAME

KNOWLEDGE OF THE GAME

LITTLE BROTHER OF WAR

War was such an obsession among the Southeastern Tribes that even some of their games mimicked the rigors of combat and, in some instances, was nearly as bloody as battle itself. Among the most popular of these pastimes were the stickball games, the Southeastern tribesman aptly called, ``The Little Brother of War.``

The game was the forerunner to Lacrosse. The game, which had variants throughout North America, was played in a particularly warlike fashion in the Southeast. Each participant had two sticks: each stick size is two-and- a-half or three-feet in length, with one end bent to make a cup with a leather web. A shallow pocket of animal skin was attached to the loop. The ball was animal hair encased in skin. The number of players to a side varied from region to region.

The object was always to hurl the ball between goal posts set up at either end of a field. The action was pure mayhem, as the player's swing their sticks widely ran, pushed and shoved to gain possession of the ball as it flows throughout the air. Players might be bashed on the head with the sticks or trampled underfoot if they stumbled and fell. Permanent maiming or even death was not an uncommon result of playing this version of Lacrosse.

THE U. S. GOVERNMENT BANNED
STICKBALL AROUND 1900

GENERATION TO GENERATION

PREPARING PURIFICATION RITUALS FOR THE GAME

The men's rituals continue through the night and the morning hours preceding the game. Several times they will go to the river to purify themselves. The Medicine Man will perform rites for each of the players several times. On the way to the ball ground in the morning the players take a round about route to avoid the magic of the opposing team's conjurer. With the fact that the the route is overly long and the fact that they stop several times along the way to do purification rites and be blessed by the priests, it is unlikely they will reach the ball ground before noon. Just prior to going to the ball ground the head conjurer will give an inspirational speech to the players telling them that all the omens are favorable for them to prevail in the upcoming game and that they should play to the best of their abilities, reminding them of the adulation that their friends and relatives will bestow upon them on their success. This speech is very emotional and is frequently interrupted by the exultant yells of the players. Just as they arrive at the ball ground they turn aside and the priest tells each man what position he will be playing by sticking sharpened sticks in the ground. A final ritual is the scratching, where each player is scratched with a comb like tool made from sharpened splinters of a turkey leg bone. Each player is scratched on his arms legs chest and back. After the scratching the priest gives each player a root to chew on. They will spit the juice of the root on the scratches and rub it in, then they will wash it off in one final trip to the water, where the priest will perform yet another rite. With the players facing upstream and east the priest stands behind them and takes out red beads to represent the players, black beads to represent the opponents. He then calls to the spirits of various animals to bestow on the players their individual strengths and qualities. Then the Medicine Man asks the player for the name of his most hated opponent. Then the conjurer mentions him by name and calls powerful curses on him to weaken him in the upcoming game. This is repeated for each player after which the players give forth a shout which they believe will carry them to victory and they proceed single file to the ball field. This is followed in some cases by rubbing on grease or slippery elm bark to make it difficult for the opponents to hold on to them during the game.

BEFORE THE

GAME

0
MEN'S COLLEGE
LACROSSE TEAMS
0
SOUTHEASTERN
TRIBES PLAY
0
WOMEN'S COLLEGE
LACROSSE TEAMS
0
STICKS USED
PER PLAYER
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