Youth and Education news
Volume 4, November 2011
Choctaw stickball: A fierce, ancient game deep in Mississippi
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Condensed by Native Village
"[In stickball], almost everything short of murder is allowable."
James Mooney, anthropologist, in the late 1800s
Mississippi: Last summer, 45 teams played in the 9-day Choctaw World
Series of Stickball. On the final night, Beaver Dam and Conehatta,
two bitter rivals, fought for the championship in front of 5,000
fans and a local television audience.
Stickball is an ancient, violent sport with few rules and defiantly
true to its Native American roots. Each summer, a
tournament is held to
decide the champion of the game known
in the Choctaw language.
Nearly 100 men in
blood-red shirts, shorts and bandannas huddle around their leader in
a high school parking lot beneath the golden glow of a
"Big night!" shouts James Denson At a muscular 6-foot-3,
the 31-year-old Denson plays for Beaver Dam and is the team's star player.
"Do y'all want it bad?"
"It's a good thing they hold [the tournament] once a year,"
said Allen Meely, an
official for the tribe's Fire Department.
"If they played it year-round, the hospital might be full."
At halftime the drummer, Jarrett Thomas, headed to his car and held his drum against the heater to dry out.
deer hide had gone flabby with the humidity. Thomas, 36, says
the team needs his drum to be dry and loud if it's going to make a
When play resumed, Beaver Dam got the ball on offense and Thomas
doubled his tempo -- 120 beats per minute.
"Like a heart beats faster, I guess," Thomas says.
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