Stick Ball On Ice

Choctaw_lacrosseVarious ‘stickball’ games have been played by Native Americans throughout the continent prior to Europeans arrival . This goes for Southern, Central American and Northern American region. The nature of rules, and equipment varied according to where –and of course- the climate. If you are interested in ice hockey, the Mic Macs are recorded as playing what we would call a pond hockey using bone as their runners, sticks for balance as well as their hitting stick.  Since bone doesn’t perform like metal the balance sticks let them glide more. The blade could have been buffalo or any other large animal such as elk. I know anecdotally from Lakota people that they also did bone skates and played  stick games in winter along river ways. On dry land the ‘hockey’ or ball game was called ‘shinny’ and was played by women and men. In fact many museum collection’s, including ours, have shinny sticks from Southwestern, Plains and Eastern peoples.

indians lacrosse

The information and resources about this topc, Charles Eastman and Sara Wakefield, I have generally date to the 1800s. Both were witnesses to this game as played by the Dakota. Eastman as a Dakota native played it. Walker also discussed the game in his books about the Lakota. He lived with the tribes and interviewed tribal members, who stated that the game was a long-standing tradition. However, he lived with the reservation tribes in the 1900s. As far as I know, none of the earliest reports of the tribes, Jesuit priests (circa 1500s), ever reported the game, but their interaction with the Siouan peoples was limited and many of their accounts are second hand coming from enemy tribes.

This does not eliminate the Sioux as among the earliest players of the game; neither does it confirm that they were one of the first to play the game in the Americas. Now Lacrosse or some variant thereof was documented by early settlers in the East among the Siouan speakers of the coast and I believe some reports indicate that the game could be played on ice.

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