On Saturday, November 27, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and the Atlanta Braves hosted the first-ever "Cherokee Traditions at Truist Park" event.
The free, family-friendly event showcased Cherokee customs and traditions, including a performance by Cherokee dance group, Raven Rock Dancers, Tsalagi Touring Group artisans and living history demonstrators, and storytelling with Kathi Littlejohn. Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed delivered welcome remarks, and Cherokee Royalty, including Little Miss, Junior Miss, and Teen Miss Cherokee were in attendance.
The highlight of the day was the men’s and youth stickball games played on the Truist Park field for the first time.
Also known as Anetso (translation "Little Brother of War")
Cherokee stickball, also called Indian Ball, is played on a field with two goal posts set on either end. Two opposing teams line up against each other in a game. Whichever team scores 12 points first wins. There are no time-outs allowed.
The “drivers” are the referees of the game, and each team brings their own drivers. drivers work together to determine and set the rules of play before the first ball is tossed up. They watch closely to make sure that the game is being played according to the rules they agreed upon.
Each player carries one or two sticks. The sticks are typically made of hickory and one end features a scoop made of leather or sinew webbing. (The drivers will determine whether one or two sticks will be used by players in a game.)
The ball, which is about 3" in diameter, is made of leather and sinew. Each stickball team brings their own balls to a tournament, though typically the ball used in a game will be supplied by a team that is not currently playing in that game.
Team sizes vary from game to game. Twelve is an average number for a stickball team, but teams can grow as large as 100 - 1000 men on each side. The drivers agree to the number of players on each team and ensure both sides have an equal number of men.
If a player is injured and must leave the game, the driver of the opposing team then picks one of their team members to step out of the game to keep the sides even.
Exactly how points are scored is determined at the start of the game by the drivers. Some teams were taught to run past the goal with the ball to score, others to throw it past the goal, whereas others circle the goal post with the ball to score, and there may be other variations. Before a game begins, the drivers agree upon which scoring method both teams will follow.
Players can (and do) tackle at any time. Each player is assigned a member of the opposing team to guard.
Handling the Ball
Once the ball is tossed up into play, players scramble to scoop it up off the ground with their sticks. It is illegal to catch a tossed ball or to pick it up off the ground with your hands. Typically, once a player has used the stick to lift the ball above their knees they can then transfer the ball to their hands. (The drivers agree at the start of the game on how and when the ball can be picked up.) The player with the ball then runs for the goal while trying to avoid being tackled and losing the ball to their opponents.
If the ball is illegally caught or otherwise touched, or if it goes out of bounds, it is called a “dead ball.” Once a dead ball has been called, the drivers determine which person is allowed to toss the ball back into play.
After a team scores 11 points, that team has the option of putting down their sticks and playing with their hands until the end of the game.