Cherokee Games

Stickball, Fish, and Blowguns

Members of the Snowbird Stickball Team from Graham County's Snowbird community will make their fourth appearance at Mountain Heritage Day to demonstrate the ancient game of stickball and other traditional games for festival visitors. The Snowbird team was first organized about eighteen years ago, said team leader Charles "Shorty" Kirkland.

Historians have documented the tradition of Cherokee people visiting other villages to participate in a competition similar to the present-day game of lacrosse. Rather than a simple sporting event, though, Cherokee stickball was a ritualized contest with the goal of settling arguments between communities or tribes. The object of the game was to move a small, tightly wrapped, animal-skin ball from the center of a field to the other team's goal line. Sticks with pouches were used to carry or throw the ball, but it also could be carried anyplace on the body. The stickball tradition continues to this day on the Qualla Boundary and as a featured attraction at the annual Cherokee Indian Fair. The stickball demonstration at Mountain Heritage Day will begin at 11 a.m.

Another ancient Native American tradition will be played out at Mountain Heritage Day when members of the Snowbird Stickball Team and their female associates – wives, daughters and girlfriends – demonstrate "Fish," a courtship game that traditionally took place when a man asked a woman for her hand in marriage. Before the game, a 24-foot pole is hoisted with a wooden fish on top. Each male player uses two sticks to throw a ball up to hit the fish, while the woman he is courting is allowed to use her hands to throw the ball. Additionally, the woman is allowed to harass the man by physically attacking them but the man is not allowed to touch the woman, Kirkland said. "Fish" is a tradition that the Snowbird team learned from the Western Cherokees, he said. "The woman can even take the sticks away from the man and beat him with them, but the man has to be a perfect gentleman," he said. The "Fish" demonstration will being at 1 p.m.

The Snowbird team also will demonstrate a traditional skill, the use of rivercane blowguns, at 3 p.m.


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