Cherokee National Holiday sees first-ever chunkey game
Two spears mark the ground as a disc-shaped stone is rolled during a game of chunkey. Chunkey is an ancient Cherokee sport that was played for the first time at the 65th annual Cherokee National Holiday Traditional Native Games on Sept. 3 at One Fire Field in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
United Keetoowah Band citizen Charlotte Wolfe, right, competes in the women’s division of chunkey at the 65th annual Cherokee National Holiday Traditional Native Games on Sept. 3 at One Fire Field in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The object is to throw an 8-foot-long wooden spear at a rolling disc-shaped stone, and the closest spear to land near the stone when it stops rolling gets a point. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Mark Thompson, foreground, competes against his brother, Darren Eagle, in the men’s division of chunkey at 65th annual Cherokee National Holiday Traditional Native Games on Sept. 3 at One Fire Field in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Chunkey competitor Ed Deerinwater watches as he attempts to land his spear near the chunkey stone as it rolls during the 65th annual Cherokee National Holiday Traditional Native Games on Sept. 3 at One Fire Field in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After intriguing the public in 2016 about an ancient Cherokee game called chunkey, Cherokee Nation citizen Jim Cosby brought the game to this year’s Cherokee National Holiday’s Traditional Native Games on Sept. 3 at the One Fire Field.
The event marked the first time the ancient game, which possibly precedes stickball and was used as a means to gamble, was played at the annual tribal holiday.
Before reintroducing chunkey, Cosby said he had to research its history and rules.
“Unfortunately there’s not a lot of documented history on the game, and we got all the history we could. We play as close to what we have discovered, as we could find that’s out there,” Cosby said.
The object is to throw an 8-foot-long wooden spear, typically made of hickory, at a rolling disc-shaped stone. The closest spear to land near the stone when it stops rolling gets a point. The first person to 11 points wins.
Two chunkey stones were used in this year’s games, both carved from Georgia granite by Cherokee artists Eddie Morrison and Matt Girty. Both stones were retired after the Cherokee Traditional Native Games to be preserved for future games.
“Back in the old days the towns owned the chunkey stones. They were considered a precious object. We know the Cherokee played because a bunch of chunkey stones were excavated from our original homelands,” Cosby said.
He also said chunkey was known as a violent game, not physically, but in the gambling that surrounded it. Cosby said people would bet their possessions, and if they lost, criminal activity, and even suicide, ensued among the communities that played.
“It was just almost a war-like game. The game itself wasn’t violent, but the things surrounding it kind of were,” he said. “Back in the day, each person would gamble. They would put something, and if they lost it was tragic. It was a big deal.”
The future of chunkey lays in the hands of those interested in learning to play and helping preserve Cherokee culture and history.
United Keetoowah Band citizen Charlotte Wolfe said the game is now played for fun and fellowship.
“It’s really exciting to see it come back and to have women involved as well and children. It’s really for any age, anybody. That’s awesome. It’s a less intimidating game for families to come out and enjoy,” Wolfe said. “When we play these games, its more than just a game, it’s a fellowship. So it brings people together, and the fellowship can make any event enjoyable.”
CN citizen Mark Thompson said he hopes chunkey keeps growing and generates more interest to help “keep the history alive.”
“People love it, and it’s real fun to play. It just only made sense to add it to the (Traditional) Native Games because it’s one of our oldest games,” Cosby said.
Chunkey tournament winners in the women’s division were first-place Charlotte Wolfe, second-place Clarissa Eagle and third-place Tracey Eagle. Men’s division winners were first-place Marcus Thompson, second-place Brock Lewis and third-place Mark Thompson. In the children’s division, winners were first-place Gavin Langston, second-place Farris Sutteer and third-place Nathan Langston.
For more information, visit the Cherokee Chunkey Players Facebook page.
ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ.----ᏴᏫ ᎠᏁᏙᎲ ᎠᎩᏁᎢᏍᏔᏅ ᎯᎠ ᏔᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏓᎳᏚ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ ᎯᎠ ᎢᎴᎯᏳ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏅᎯ ᎯᎠ ᎠᏃᏎᎲᎢ ᏨᏅᎩ, ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᎨᎵ ᎨᎳ Jim Cosby ᎤᏲᏢ ᎯᎠ ᏗᏁᎶᏗ ᎯᎠ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᎾᏕᎾ ᎤᎾᏕᏘᏱᏍᎬ ᎤᎾᏕᏘᏱᏍᎬ ᎢᎴᎯᏳ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏅ ᎠᏁᎯᏯᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏚᎵᏍᏗ ᏦᎢᏁ ᎾᎿ ᏌᏊ ᎪᏛᎢ ᏠᎨᏏ.
ᎯᎠ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬ ᎤᏙᏪᎳᏅ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎢᎴᎯᏳ ᎯᎠ ᎤᏪ ᎢᎴᎯᏳ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏅᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏉᎯᏳ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎾᏃ ᎠᎾᏁᏦᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᎬᏩᏟ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᎾᏕᏘᏱᏍᎬ ᎠᏂᎾᏍᏓᏢ ᎤᏂᏆᎸᎡᎲᎢ.
ᏏᏃ ᏂᏚᎾᏁᎶᏅᎾ ᏨᏅᎩ, Cosby ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎪᏓ ᎤᎪᎵᏰᎢᏓᏍᏗ ᏄᏍᏛ ᏄᎾᏛᏁᎵᏙᎸ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏂᏍᏓᏩᏛᏍᏙᏗ ᏚᏂᎲᎢ.
“ᏙᎯᏳᏃ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᎰᏒ Ꮮ ᎰᏩ ᎢᎸᏢ ᏱᎪᏪᎵ ᎧᎬᎮᏍᎩ ᎯᎠ ᏗᏁᎶᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᏱᏚᏂᎾ ᎪᏪᎵ ᎯᎠ ᎨᏒᎢ. ᏙᎦᏁᎶᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎣᎩᏩᏛᎲ ᎣᏥᎪᎵᏱᏍᎬᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎣᎩᏩᏛᎲᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Cosby.
ᏄᏍᏛᏃ ᎯᎠ ᏮᎾᏕᎨ ᏧᏁᎳ ᎢᎳᏏᏓ ᎢᎦᏅᎯᏓ ᎪᏍᏓᏱ , ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᏩᏁᎢ ᎠᏓ ᎪᏢᏔᏅ ᎨᏎᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏭᎾᏕᎨ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎵᏐᏩᎴᏟᏒ ᎦᏐᏆᎸ ᏅᏯ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎾᎠᏂᎨᏍᏗ ᏭᏗᏨ ᎾᎿ ᎪᏍᏓᏱ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏐᏆᎸᎢ ᎦᏅᏍᎬᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎢᎬᏱ ᏴᏫ ᎾᎿ ᏌᏚ ᎤᏅᏅᎢ ᎠᏓᏠᏍᎬᎢ.
ᏔᎵ ᏨᏅᎩ ᏅᏯ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎯᎠ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬᎢ, ᎢᏧᎳ ᏧᏃᏢᏅ ᎾᎿ ᏣᏥ granite ᏅᏯ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎪᏢᏅᏍᎩ Eddie Morrison ᎠᎴ Matt Girty. ᎢᏧᎳ ᏅᏯ ᏙᎢ ᏂᏚᏅᏁᎸ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏂᏍᏆᏓ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎪᎯᎨ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏗ ᎠᏂᎯᏯ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏗ ᎤᎾᎵᏏᏅᏔᏅ ᎾᎿ ᎣᏂ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏙᏗ.
“ᎪᎯᎦ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎤᏂᏚᎲ ᏚᏂᎲ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏨᏅᎩ ᏅᏯ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏙᏗ. ᏚᎾᎦᏎᏍᏛᏃ ᏧᏂᎨᏳᎯ ᎨᏒᎢ. ᎣᎦᏅᏔ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎤᎪᏓ ᏨᏅᎩ ᏅᏯ ᏚᏂᏅᏩᏢᏎᎢ ᎾᎿ ᎢᎬᏱ ᏚᎾᏁᎳᏛᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Cosby.
ᎯᎠᏃ ᏄᏪᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏨᏅᎩ ᎤᎾᏅᏛ ᎾᎿ ᏗᎦᎾᏰᎦ ᎨᏒ, ᏝᏃ ᏗᎵᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ, ᎾᏍᎩᏂ ᏓᏂᏆᎾᏲᎯᎲ ᎤᎳᏗᏢᎢ. Cosby ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᏴᏫ ᏓᏂᎬᏩᏢᏍᎬ ᎤᏂᎾᎥ, ᎠᎴ ᎢᏳᏃ ᏳᏂᏲᎱᏎᎵ, ᎠᏂᏍᎦᏅᏨᎲᏍᎬ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᏅᏌ ᏓᎾᏓᎯᎲᎢ, ᎤᎾᎵᏍᏓᏁᎸᎲᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏁᎯ ᏚᎾᏁᎶᏅᎯ.
“ᎤᏠᏯᏈ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎠᏂᏲᏍᎩ ᏓᎾᏟᎲᎢ. ᏓᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬ Ꮭ ᎤᏁᎫᏥᏓ ᏱᎨᏎ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎤᎳᏗᏢ ᎨᏒ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎾᎯᏳ ᏥᎨᏒ, ᎠᏏᏴᏫᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏓᏂᏆᎾᏲᎯᎲ. ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏓᏂᎬᏩᏢᏍᎬ, ᎠᎴ ᏳᏲᎱᏎᎵ Ꮭ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏱᎨᏎᎢ. ᎤᏔᎾ ᏧᏂᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ.”
ᎤᏩᎪᏗᏗᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏨᏅᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᏧᏃᏰᏂ ᎠᏝᎢ ᎾᏃ ᎤᎾᏚᎵᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏍᏕᎵᏍᎩ ᎠᎵᏏᏅᏙᏗ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏂᏧᎵᏍᏔᏅᏍᏔᏅᎢ.
ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯᏍᏛ ᎨᎳ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎯᎠ ᏗᏁᎶᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎪ ᎤᏬᎸᏛᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏱᏚᎾᏓᏟᏌᏅ.
“ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᏓᏅᏓᏗᏍᏗ ᎠᎪᏩᏛᏗ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᎨᏯ ᎠᏁᎸᏗᏙᎲ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏂᏲᏟᎢ. ᏂᎦᏛᏃ ᏗᎬᏩᎾᏁᎶᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎯᎳ ᎢᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏱᎩ ᎾᏍᏊ, ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᏊ ᎩᎶᎢ. ᎢᎦᏃ ᎣᏍᏓ. Ꮭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᎦ ᎠᏍᎢᏍᏗ ᏱᎨᏐ ᎯᎠ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᎲᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏏᏓᏁᎸ ᏗᎬᏩᎾᏁᎶᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎬᏩᏂᎸᏉᏙᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᏩᎭᏱ. “ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᏙᎦᏁᎶᏂ ᎯᎠ ᏗᏁᎶᏙᏗ, ᎤᎪᏙᏃ Ꮩ ᏗᏁᎶᏗᏊ, ᎾᏍᎩᏯ ᏗᏓᏟᏐᏗ ᏥᎨᏐᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏕᎦᏟᏏᏍᎪ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ, ᎠᎴ ᏓᎾᏟᏃᎮᏍᎪ ᏃᎴᏍᏊ ᎠᏂᎸᏉᏗᏍᎪᎢ.”
ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎳ Mark Thompson ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏚᎩ ᎤᏩ ᏨᏅᎩ ᏗᏁᎶᏗ ᎤᏛᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᎩᏍᏗ ᎠᏍᏕᎸᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ “ᎪᎯᎦ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅ ᏚᎾᏁᎶᏅ ᎬᏃᏗ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗᎢ.”
“ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎤᏂᎸᏉᏔᏅ, ᎠᎴ ᎢᎦ ᎤᏬᎸᏗ ᏗᏁᎶᏗᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎣᏏᏊ ᏱᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ (ᎪᎯᎦ ᏚᎾᏁᎶᏅ) ᎪᏂᎯᏯ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏗ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎦᏴᎵ ᏧᎾᏁᎶᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Cosby.
ᏨᏅᎩ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᎾᏓᏠᏒᎢ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏂᏴᏯ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎤᏓᏠᏒ Charlotte Wolfe, ᏔᎵᏁ ᎠᏌᏍᏛ Clarissa Eagle ᎠᎴ ᏦᎢᏳ ᎠᏌᏍᏛ Tracey Eagle. ᎠᏂᏍᎦᏱ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎤᏓᏠᏒ Marcus Thompson, ᏔᎵᏁ ᎠᏌᏍᏛ Brock Lewis ᎠᎴ ᏦᎢᏁ Mark Thompson. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᎠᎾᏓᎪᎾᏗᏍᎬᎢ, ᎤᎾᏓᏠᏒᎢ ᎢᎬᏱ Gavin Langston, ᏔᎵᏁᏃ Farris Sutter ᎠᎴ ᏦᎢᏁᎢ Nathan Langston.
ᎤᎪᏛ ᎠᏕᎶᎰᎯᏍᏗ ᏲᏚᎵ, visit the Cherokee Players Facebook page.
– TRANSLATION BY ANNA SIXKILLER