The Tunica-Biloxi Language & Culture Revitalization Program (LCRP) hosted its Fourth Annual Stickball Clinic & Exhibition for children ages 10 -16. This historic sporting event took place on Saturday, Feb. 9, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Chief Joseph A. Pierite Pow Wow Grounds on the Tunica-Biloxi Reservation in Marksville.
Players from the Alabama-Coushatta stickball team of Livingston, TX led a clinic on basic skills, rules and safety of the game. Afterwards, the Alabama-Coushatta team played an exhibition game and then supported workshop participants in scrimmage games. Participants were grouped by size for the scrimmage games.
Following the stickball clinic and exhibition games, LCRP hosted a cookout for participants.
Background on Stickball
Native American stickball is considered to be one of the oldest team sports in North America. Stickball and lacrosse are similar to one another, the game of lacrosse being a tradition belonging to tribes of the Northern United States and Canada; stickball, on the other hand, continues in Oklahoma and parts of the Southeastern U.S. where the game originated. Although the first recorded writing on the topic of stickball was not until the mid-17th century, there is evidence that the game had been developed and played hundreds of years before that.
Stickball was especially popular among Southeastern Indian tribes, including the Tunica-Biloxi. Stickball was played by tribal members regularly through the mid 20th century and gradually disappeared. Choctaw communities in Mississippi, Coushatta in Louisiana, and the Alabama-Coushatta of Texas still have active stickball programs. Players and coaches from the Alabama-Coushatta community will lead a stickball clinic and exhibition on the Tunica-Biloxi reservation.
More than just a game, stickball builds body and spirit through exercise when played by all age groups—children, youth and adults. Many games have roots in ancestral tests of strength and sport that reinforced group cooperation and sharpened survival skills in often hostile environments. For warriors, the games helped maintain their readiness and combat skills between times of war. The gradual shift to a more sedentary lifestyle has highlighted the need to reawaken interest in physical activity, especially among Native youth. Promoting stickball could, once again, become an important part of improving the health and well-being of the Tunica-Biloxi people.
As the Tunica-Biloxi strive to preserve and revitalize traditional life-ways it is necessary to provide community educational forums that will perpetuate knowledge and usage of these cultural elements. The Stickball Clinic & Exhibition provides an opportunity to explore traditions that are both unique and shared by neighboring indigenous communities.