Cherokee stickball on display at Mountain Heritage Day

Cherokee stickball demonstrated during Mountain Heritage Day. Photo By: Phil Jackson

Mountain Heritage Day made it’s 38th annual appearance on the campus of Western Carolina University Saturday, Sept. 29. The festival included hayrides, classic cars, live music, great food and games. One game that was showcased was Cherokee Stickball.

Stickball is a mixture of American sports such as lacrosse, field hockey and football. The game is played with an animal-skin ball similar in size to a golf ball. The object is for members of either team to run the ball between the goal posts for points. During this demonstration of stickball, tree branches were used to mark the goalposts. The ball can be carried across the goal line by hand or by stick. The ball can only be picked up by hand after it is picked up by stick. The stick used during this game looks a lot like a large spoon with a net at the tip. Other than that, it appeared that the only rule was to stop the opponent from scoring by any means necessary.

“It’s a very brutal sport. I’ve seen all kinds of injuries from playing stickball,” said Quay, a spectator of the game.

Brutal was an understatement. This game of stickball had its fair share of hits, tackles and one player even sustained an injury. He was carted off the field on a stretcher with an apparent rib or shoulder injury. Once the player was removed, another player was inserted and the game continued.

“I’ve seen wrists, shoulders, legs and even a neck injury while watching stickball,” Quay later added.

Despite injury, the stickball demonstration was fun and entertaining for anyone watching. Stickball has been and remains a large part of Cherokee culture.