Indigenous Stickball, considered to be one of the oldest team sports in North America, was in the spotlight Saturday at a tournament and summit in Atlanta.
According to organizers, for the first time in over 200 years, the sport was played by multiple native nations on traditional Muscogee land in the heart of the city.
Organized by Atlanta Beltline Inc., Addison Karl (Chickasaw/Choctaw member) and Emory University, the Southeast Woodlands Stickball Summit showcased the history and future of the game to the public at the free event at the athletic field at Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark.
Saturday’s gathering welcomed Native American delegations from Oklahoma, Mississippi and North Carolina. Following an opening ceremony by the Muscogee Nation, players from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation, the Chickasaw Nation and the Mississippi Choctaw Nation to present exhibition games in the Historic Fourth Ward Activity Field.
“The Atlanta Beltline is situated on the traditional homelands of the Muscogee Creek and Cherokee Peoples and we are committed to respecting and acknowledging those who stewarded this land before us,” said Nonet Sykes, chief equity and inclusion officer for the Beltline group, said in a statement before the summit.
“When I think about this event, all these nations coming together — I know my grandfather is smiling along with the rest of my ancestors,” said Addison Karl, the artist behind the sculpture Itti’ kapochcha to’li’ that’s on display alongside the Beltline’s Eastside Trail. The sculpture features the sticks used in the game, and Karl learned about the history of stickball in part from such sticks that his grandparents displayed at their home.
Emory University was the host for a panel discussion about Indigenous Stickball on Saturday evening at the Michael C. Carlos Museum.