The voice of and for USM students




Stickball event celebrates Choctaw Heritage

Simeon Gates
USM students engage in a game of stickball.

The Golden Eagle Intertribal Society recently held a stickball game at the intramural fields on Thursday, November 9. Thursday’s game was an exhibition of the game’s rules and form. Experienced players from GEIS played the game and invited guests to learn and watch. The players were all current students at the University of Southern Mississippi and of Choctaw descent.
Thursday’s game was more informal, with the more experienced players guiding guests on how to handle the ball followed by a short game. The stickball game is part of a series of programs for Native American Heritage Month. GEIS hosts events throughout November to educate about and celebrate Native American history and culture.
Lanena John is a USM graduate and former member of GEIS. She’s played stickball since she was a child.
“What I hope for them to learn is that they see why cultures are important,” John said. “Not just indigenous, but other cultures as well. And that cultures make each ethnicity, race, unique in a way.”
John Willis III, USM senior and member of GEIS, expressed his passion for the sport.
“I love the ferocity and the intensity during the games when we go and when we play,” Willis said. “Even during practice, we have to play with the mindset of being intense.”
Willis’ goal is to find an advisor for a stickball club at USM and to expand stickball’s popularity on campus.
“It’s a tradition that I hope never goes away,” Willis added.
Stickball is one of the oldest games in North America. The earliest historical reference to stickball came from a Jesuit priest in 1729.
The Choctaw people call it “ishtaboli or “little brother of war” because it was historically used as a way to settle disputes between tribes.
In the past, games with hundreds of players on fields that stretched for miles and could last for days. In the present, the game evolved new rules.
The goal of stickball is to land a ball or “towa” onto a goalpost in the center of the field using a stick or “kabocca.” Artisans make the balls and the sticks out of wood, deer hide, and leather. Two teams of 30 players use their sticks to hurl the ball up and down the field.
A stickball game has four quarters, each 14-minutes each. The game is played for recreation, but it also has spiritual and ceremonial significance.
The Golden Eagle Intertribal Society is USM’s student organization for Native students. It is part of USM’s Center for American Indian Research and Studies. CAIRS and GEIS host events throughout the school year to spread awareness and appreciation of indigenous culture and identity.

Leave a Comment
Donate to SM2

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Southern Mississipi. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to SM2

Comments (0)

All Southern Miss Student Media Center Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *