On the eve of the Minnesota Swarm’s second home game of the season (vs. the Edmonton Rush at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Xcel Center), my tribal paper’s weekly email newsletter included the following cultural tidbit:

Traditional Religious Beliefs of the Cherokee

A-ne-jo-di, or Stickball, is a very rough game played by not only the Cherokee, but many other Southeastern Woodland tribes including the Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, and others.

The game resembles the modern European game of LaCrosse, using ball sticks which are handmade from hickory. A small ball, made of deer hair and hide, is tossed into the air by the medicine man. The male players use a pair of the sticks, and female players use the bare hands. In earlier times, only the men with the greatest athletic ability played the game. The game was oftentimes played to settle disputes, and the conjurer for each team often became as important to the team as the players themselves.

Seven points are scored when the ball strikes a wooden fish on the top of a pole approximately 25 feet in height, and two points are awarded when the ball strikes the pole.

In earlier days, there would be a dance before the ballgame. The ballplayers were the participants of the dance, along with seven women dancers. Each woman represented one of the clans. Throughout the dance, the women would step on black beads which represented the players of the opposing team. The conjurer had placed these black beads on a large flat rock. Today, stickball is an important part of the days activities at ceremonial Stomp Grounds, being necessary to play before the Stomp Dance can ever begin. It is also a recreational sport at other times between community teams. There are also intertribal teams made up of players from Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Yuchi, Natchez, and other area communities.

It’s always good to know your history and the origins of the pastimes you enjoy. Look for us at the Swarm game — we’ll be in our usual seats on the glass next to the home penalty box. Click here for tickets. Tell ’em Art sent you.

The video above was shot during my trip with Jesse to the Cherokee National Holiday last fall. I told Jesse I would play in the men’s game this year. We’ll see. Now that I’m an elder, I might have an excuse…