Ball Play, Stick Ball, And The Game of Lacrosse

  • 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


Kit’s Crit: The Cherokee Nation – A History (Robert J. Conley)

The Cherokee Nation : A History by Robert J. Conley


Robert J. Conley is a member of the Cherokee Tribe who has written over seventy books.  It is therefore no surprise to find that The Cherokee Nation: A History (New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 2005) is an interesting and informative read.  This non-fiction history book is clearly written, well-organized, and offers a panoramic overview of the Cherokee people, from prehistoric times to the modern day.

The book begins by discussing various origin theories, both mythic and anthropological, and invites readers to examine the combined sources and recommended reading list at the end of the chapter.  He then traces tribal history through the Spanish invasion of 1540 – British Colonialism – the War of Independence – the Golden Age – the American Civil War – the Indian Wars – along the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma – the separation of the Eastern Band of Cherokees – and into the Twentieth Century.

Because of the vast scope of this project there is a limited amount of information about each period.  To compensate, Conley concludes each section with glossary of the terms used, and a list of suggestions for further research.  He also includes pictures and photographs of the Principal Chiefs, from 1762 onward.

For readers interested in Native American history in general -and the Cherokee in particular – this book is a great place to start your journey.