Alabama Coushatta tribe helping grow the popularity of stickball

Alabama Coushatta tribe helping grow the popularity of stickball
kids play a game of stickball at the recent Ala-Cous stickball tournament in Polk County (Source: KTRE Sports)

POLK COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - The Alabama Coushatta tribe is trying to grow their cultural impact. One of the ways they do that is by promoting the game of stickball.

The game is translated to several different Indian languages but the common acceptance in English is the translation of “Little brother of war”.

“It is a primitive sport,” Coushatta member Krista Langley said. “Think of lacrosse but we use two small sticks and a small leather woven ball. You score by shooting at a small pole that is usually the size of a 4x4 or smaller. The main way of defending your pole is by tackling, shoving and pushing. Basically any way to keep them away from the pole."

The tribe has been putting a tournament on for eight years that sees different tribes from around the southeast come and play. Away from the tournament it is a very community-oriented event.

“Around this time of year, we play here about twice a week,” Langley said. “We are all-inclusive. You will see it anywhere from four to five year-olds all the way up to people that are in their 30s and 40s. We just play to keep our skills up."

The game is more tame now. Before the time of reservations, tribes would go to war against each other. The game of stickball became an alternative with warriors meeting up with each other on the playing field.

“Instead of going to war, they would solve disputes with stickball,” Langley said. “This way you didn’t have as much loss of life and had a more peaceful way at solving disputes such as land or hunting grounds. Now for us it is a way to get our community involved in something that is traditional and promotes health and well being both physically and mentally.”

It is not just the Alabama Coushatta tribe that has seen growth in the game over the least decade. Both the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations in Oklahoma have seen growth.

“We are not out there to fight each other,” Choctaw member Jarred Tom said. “We are out there to carry this heritage and culture with us and let our elders know that we are still here and playing a game given to us. As adults we played all these years and we weren’t getting any younger. We had to instill it in our kids. Our first year seven years ago we started with about 88 kids in one community and know in our 10 county are we have about 700 youth playing."

The tribes know as society progresses their is a chance that more tradition goes away but they are hopeful that efforts like this keep traditions alive.

“As adults we don’t have to worry that stickball not being around in 30 years,” Tom said. “We put it in our kids and that tradition is going to grow and continue.”

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