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.