National UNITY Council Executive Committee member helped teach stickball at his tribes Culture Camp in Livingston, Texas for local Native youth. “It was awesome to see several of our tribes youth to participate in a long time tradition of ours” said Southern Plains Representative Colby Whitethunder of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. The resurgence in traditional games are an important part of the tribe’s Inner Voice Youth Council’s efforts to integrate wellness teachings into their prevention efforts.
According to KTRE News: The game is translated to several different Indian languages but the common acceptance in English is the translation of “Little brother of war”.
“It is a primitive sport,” Coushatta member Krista Langley said. “Think of lacrosse but we use two small sticks and a small leather woven ball. You score by shooting at a small pole that is usually the size of a 4×4 or smaller. The main way of defending your pole is by tackling, shoving and pushing. Basically any way to keep them away from the pole.”
The tribe has been putting a tournament on for eight years that sees different tribes from around the southeast come and play. Away from the tournament it is a very community-oriented event.
“Around this time of year, we play here about twice a week,” Langley said. “We are all-inclusive. You will see it anywhere from four to five year-olds all the way up to people that are in their 30s and 40s. We just play to keep our skills up.”
While each tribe has their own unique creation stories, medicine and traditional ways of playing stickball, there are some similarities with this traditional game that was widely played among many southeastern tribal nations. Not one person can speak for all of the different cultural variations, but more and more Native youth are playing an active role in ensuring these cultural wellness teachings are not lost. UNITY Southern Plains Representative Whitethunder shared how it meant a lot to him that these cultural teaching be kept alive and taught as often as possible for future generations to come. The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas has the oldest reservation in Texas and has a very active UNITY youth council which brings the community together. Whitethunder shared how originally the Alabamas and Coushattas but have been closely associated throughout their history with nearly identical cultural teachings. These cultural teachings are now celebrated through the generations as native youth strive to keep them going.
According to the Games of the North American Indians, similar to Lacrosse, traditional stickball games were sometimes major events that could last several days. As many as 100 to 1,000 men from opposing villages or tribes would participate (Culin, Stewart. 1907). The historical game played a huge role in the peace kept between tribes who played it. The game was not only used as a way to settle disputes and grievances among the many tribes but was also played to toughen young warriors for combat, for recreation, as part of festivals, and for the bets involved. Often before the game was even played terms would be set and agreed upon and the losing team would have no choice but to accept the outcome. If a tribe did not accept the terms of the game, the dispute often would end in battle.
Southern Plains Executive Committee Representative Colby WhiteThunder has been a part of the UNITY family since 2012. “I am 21 years of age, from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. I am of the Daddylong Legs clan. I attend SAGU American Indian College in Phoenix, Arizona, where I plan to graduate with my bachelor’s degree in business. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I plan on obtaining a Master of Business Administration degree to open a series of restaurants, consisting of traditional foods from several tribe across the US.”
To reach out to your UNITY Southern Plains Representative feel free to email SouthernPlains@unityinc.org