Object: Stickball Sticks, and Balls

E/1947/3/2 a-c
Cherokee, Oklahoma
ca. 1940’s
Materials: Wood, rawhide, black thread, cloth, cotton

E/1959/7/12
Creek, Oklahoma
ca. 1940’s
Materials: Wood, rawhide

Ball sticks are used to play a Native American sport called stickball. Many tribes originally from the southeastern United States still play the two stick version of stickball including the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Yuchi. The manner in which points are earned varies depending on the tribe. Some versions involve a pole with a figure, sometimes a fish or a skull, at the top of the pole and points can be earned by hitting this figure. Other versions of the game allow differing amounts of points to be earned depending how high up the ball makes contact with the pole.

Stickball is much more than a pastime for Native Americans. Many tribes will play stickball preceding and on the same grounds they use to stomp dance, an activity that holds great religious and social meaning. There are two main variations of the game: one which is played exclusively by men and one which is played by both men and women. The game  played exclusively by men was used in the past to settle disputes between tribes, giving it the name “Little Brother of War”. The amount of players allowed to participate ranged from twenty to as many as three hundred with the playing field changing size accordingly. Though these games could result in serious injury and even multiple players’ deaths, it was preferred to the casualties that would have resulted from warfare. Once one side won there was no dispute or retaliation by the other side because of the respect this game commanded.

The other version of stickball involves women and men. The men use these sticks and the women use their hands. Men are not allowed to touch the women, but the women can use whatever means available to score a goal. These sticks are usually made out of hickory wood and are soaked in hot water before shaped and tied with rawhide that is also used for the netting. Women are not allowed to touch the sticks that men use in the version played exclusively by men against men. The balls are made out of many different materials. At the center of the ball is a hard object, sometimes a hickory nut, piece of wood, or rock that is then padded with deer hair and covered with rawhide. To learn more about stickball check out this video.

Work cited

Cherokee Nation.
2014 Cherokee Stomp Dance. http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/Culture/General/CherokeeStompDance.aspx

2014 Stickball(a ne jo di). http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/Culture/General/Stickball(anejodi).aspx

Choctaw Nation Cultural Services.
2013  Stickball Team – Tvshka Homma. http://www.choctawnationculture.com/cultural-events/stickball-team.aspx

Holmes, Baxter.
2011  Choctaw Stickball: A Fierce, Ancient Game Deep in Mississippi. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/oct/18/nation/la-na-choctaw-stickball-20111019

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
2011  Choctaw Stickball. http://www.choctaw.org/culture/stickball.html

UGA Toli Team.
2004  Variations of Stickball. http://toli.uga.edu/information/variations.html

[Mary Williams]

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