This year among the international group performances, dance lessons, crafts, and vendors, there will be a demonstration of Stickball at Many Cultures Day on Saturday, July 22nd in the green space adjacent to the Folkmoot Friendship Center. Stickball, or Indian Ball, is a traditional Cherokee sport and Kolanvyi (Big Cove), a group from Cherokee, will be providing two demonstrations of the game during this event. The men’s group will play for an hour and the boy’s group will play for half an hour.
Stickball began in prehistoric times as a way for tribes to settle disputes without war, and was called “Little Brother of War”. The game is actually the origin of Lacrosse and is played similarly except that the ball is carried and thrown with two sticks rather than a single stick. The game was historically played on a large field, and teams scored by throwing the ball through a goal. Stickball is much like hockey, where the stick is a legitimate implement for hitting other players. Despite the aggression used in the sport, players go without helmets, shoulder pads, and even shoes.
This game is only played by men and is used as a way for boys to grow up learning the traditions and values of being a Cherokee warrior. Each player is a respected member of the brotherhood and chosen to compete against other communities based on speed, strength, experience, and heart. Kolanvyi respects their heritage and has spoken to elders within the community to learn about this sport along with other traditions. The players also use the Cherokee language when using different commands in the game as a way to help preserve the language.
“I play stickball because it is fun. We get to slam and tackle people and we get to speak our language. Playing stickball with the team feels like a family or brotherhood. We protect each other. Stickball is a part of my culture. My dad and uncles still play and I hear stories of Jerry Wolfe and what a great player he was. Stickball is a rough sport and when you play against other communities they play their stronger and fastest players. I love playing stickball!” Ogana Ledford
“ᎪᎳᏅᏱ stickball is a rough sport. My ancestors played this sport wearing breechcloths while we wear shorts and play to settle fights between each other. I always watched my dad and uncles play and now I and my brother get to play. I think of my team as a brotherhood. We play together and work together. We use our language in the game for different commands. I play stickball because my ancestors before us played the game and it’s part of who I am. I love to play stickball!” Tsisqua Ledford