- Ball Play / Stick Ball was the early version of lacrosse, popular with many Native American tribes.
- It was originally called Anetsa (“little brother of war”), and was frowned on by Christian missionaries who recognized the pagan practices and influences associated with the game.
- Originally, huge bets were wagered on the winners – choking an opponent was a common practice – and broken limbs were expected. These particular aspects lessened over time.
- Ball Play was a popular spectator event and people dressed up for the occasion.
- It was a full-contact sport that included wrestling and tackling moves.
- The participants were young men, clothed in only a team waist-cloth, with their exposed flesh covered in bear grease.
- An elaborate ritual took place the night before the game which involved scratching the players. Spells were cast on the opposition to make them weak.
- Players remained hidden while the game-director cleared a large, level plain of all sticks and stones. Two stick-goals were set up about six hundred yards apart.
- Teams were kept even and they numbered anywhere from 20-100 participants, though 30 warriors on each side was the average.
- They entered the field whooping and shouting and then marched slowly to the center.
- Each player carried a pair of ball sticks. These were made from hickory wood and had a braided net at the end.
- Lacrosse balls were about the size of a golf ball and were made from stuffed deer hide.
- Before the game started, young women dashed onto the field and gave favors of belts and handkerchiefs to their champions.
- After a lengthy speech from the game-director the ball was thrown in the air and the contest began.
- The game was refereed by two drivers.
- Rules were similar to that of modern-day lacrosse.
- The first team to score 12 goals against their rivals won the competition.
- Stick Ball was vigorous, fast, and exciting.
- Games lasted about 2 hours, then the contestants ran to the river for an icy bath.
Finger, John R. The Eastern Band of Cherokees, 1819-1900. Tennessee: U of Tennessee P, 1984.
Wikipedia, “History of Lacrosse,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_lacrosse