Informant: One of the games our Choctaw people play is called “ishtaboli,” also known as stickball. While it is a game, the name is roughly translated into “little brother of war” because we would often play this game between tribal communities to settle disputes.
Interviewer: What was the game like:
Informant: It is played with each player having 2 “kabocca’s” or sticks. There is a webbing on the end, similar to modern day lacrosse sticks. Long ago, we would play these games between tribal communities, which may be 3-5 miles apart. Each community would have a tall pole in the center of their village and the winner would be the first team to throw a small leather ball and hit the pole.
Interviewer: 5 miles apart!!! That’s a long way!
Charles: Yes, and sometimes the game would go for days until someone scored. Many tribes had similar games, but this is how the Choctaw played.
The informant is a Choctaw man in his early 50’s. He was born in Texas and grew up in Oklahoma. He currently resides in Tennessee with his wife and children.
During the Covid-19 Pandemic I flew back home to Tennessee to stay with my family. The informant is my father. My dad and I decided to have cigars in the back yard and I asked if he could share a few stories regarding our Native culture. I’ve grown up learning about these many traditions but asked him to explain them as if sharing with someone unfamiliar with the culture.
In a way, it is reminiscent of the world olympics and how sports can be used to bring people together. Stickball allowed an outlet to settle disputes without turning toward bloodshed. There was still warfare amongst indigenous people groups, so reality played was not as idealistic; but it was a model to strive for. It is interesting to see how integral sports have been to culture and society in its many variations. Lacrosse finds its origins in the Native American game of stickball.
A woman in Sacramento, California recalls an old family legend about the origins of their last name. According to her, her great grandpa and his brother had a huge fight over their inheritance after their parents died. The farm was left to be split amongst the two of them. The conflict didn’t arise from property or money, but rather from who got to keep the mule. The dispute over the mule was so heated that my source’s great grandfather left his brother forever and changed his last name from Hedding to Hedden.
My interview with my source, A, went as follows:
ME: So you mentioned that you have an interesting legend about how your name came into–like came to be.
A: Yes, when I was a little girl, my father used to tell me the funniest story about his grandpa and his brother. Apparently when their parents passed away, they were left their property, they lived on a farm. The money and land were divided but when it came to who gets the mule, my great grandfather and his brother could not agree. At the time their last name was Hedding. Well my great grandfather eventually gave in and let his brother, my great uncle, have the mule. Now I never actually met this great uncle because my great uncle because my great grandfather was so angry that he left the place, changed his last name to Hedden, and started a new family.
ME: Did they ever talk to each other again?
A: Never again.
I really wish my source had some living relatives who I could ask more about this legend. I think the whole concept of a dispute restructuring an entire family (especially over something as simple as a mule) is incredibly interesting. My source did, however, show me some genealogical records that show that the last name did, in fact, change from Hedding to Hedden at that point in the family tree. Whether this was the reason for the change is up for debate.