Stickball tradition continues at Cherokee holiday

BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
09/12/2018 12:00 PM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Stickball sticks are laid on the grass at the stickball exhibitions on Sept. 1 at Sequoyah High School’s football field during the 66th annual Cherokee National Holiday. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Various stickball exhibitions took place during the 66th annual Cherokee National Holiday during Labor Day weekend.

Variations of the game have been played within tribes and between tribes for hundreds, possibly thousands of years, stickball coordinator Tonya Wapskineh said.

“We put on a men versus men tournament,” she said. “We also do a social game, which is men versus women, which is the traditional way to play Cherokee stickball. And we put on a women’s exhibition which kind of follows the Choctaw style (of play).”

According to the Cherokee Nation website, “Stickball resembles the modern European game of lacrosse using ball sticks which are made by hand from hickory. A small ball, made of deer hair and hide, is tossed into the air by the medicine man. The male players use a pair of the sticks, and female players use their bare hands.”

CN citizen and stickball player David Comingdeer said that in earlier times stickball was much more than a game.

“This ballgame was not just a sport. It was our mechanism to challenge or answer a challenge toward a tribal town or even another tribe. Stickball games were played to handle serious disputes rather than go to war,” he said.

CN citizen and stickball player Trey Pritchett said he appreciated stickball being a part of the Cherokee National Holiday.

“We get a lot of people here who don’t usually play, so it’s a big deal for the community as a social event,” he said.

Pritchett also said stickball is a great way to keep people closer to their Native culture. “A lot of people, they really don’t know (about stickball). The game isn’t often talked about in schools and that sucks, so games like this is our way of bringing our culture to our communities.”

For more information on stickball, go to www.cherokee.org.

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