America has been a nation of sports nuts for even longer than you might imagine—a thousand years, in fact. Among the first early Native American games was chunkey, which involves throwing spears or sticks at a rolling, hockey-puck-size stone disk.

The game was an important tradition around the great prehistoric city called Cahokia, near today's St. Louis, Missouri. Chunkey was played to win converts, settle scores, and spread culture:

Cahokians culture, agriculture, and astronomy was similar to Mesoamerican nations. They spread their way of life across the Midwest and into the South and Plains with a religious fervor. Archaeologists refer to their culture as Mississippian, after the river that flows by many sites.

One primary vehicle for this cultural growth may have been Cahokian envoys who carried chunkey stones in one hand and war clubs in the other.  They would venture into the new areas to make peace or political alliances. Chunkey may have been an important element in this peace.

The biggest chunkey contests were great spectacles held on large town plazas with a 30- or 40-foot-tall wooden posts in the center on a raised mound. Not only was chunkey an important event, but other possible associations included warfare and enemy executions. Other nearby posts exhibited enemy scalps, skulls, and captured foes who would soon be killed.