Pokkecheta, or the Ball Play Historical

Pokkecheta, or the Ball Play Historical (HM1X62)

Location: Fort Mitchell, AL 36856 Russell County
Country: United States of America

N 32° 20.644', W 85° 1.256'

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—Creek Heritage Trail —

Pokkecheta, or the ball play, was an ancient and vital part of the social life of the Creeks and a popular game among many groups of Southeastern Indians. The game enhanced
interaction between towns and provided highly ritualized sport and entertainment for spectators. Called "the little brother of war," in prehistoric times the rough-and-tumble play had a deeper mythological meaning. In its historic version, it involved teams of 50 to 100 players from two different towns fighting to cast a small deer-hide ball through football-type goal posts erected on opposite ends of a 100- to 300-yard field. Players could not touch the ball with their hands but used hickory sticks with woven rawhide pockets at the end to throw the ball through the goal posts.
  The team that first scored an agreed upon number of goals won. All able-bodied males were expected to participate. Injuries were common and deaths sometimes occurred. Nevertheless, Indians loved the sport and often gambled extensively on the outcome. The present-day sport of lacrosse is thought to descend from the ball play.

  When the French Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette toured the United States in 1825, he crossed the Chattahoochee near here and witnessed a stickball game played in his honor. Gen. Thomas Woodward accompanied Lafayette
and described the spectacle:

  "...About two hundred stripped to the buff, paired themselves off and went at it. It was a ball play sure enough, and I would travel farther to see such a show than I would to see any other performed by man, and willingly pay high for it, at that."

Lafayette's secretary was also impressed by the players:

  "The game began with a war whoop, the most extraordinary modulation of the human voice that can be conceived. Chilly McIntosh, son of the well-known Coweta headman William McIntosh, scored the winning point when he detached himself from the group to some distance, returned on a run, sprung into the air, and after making several somersets, threw himself on the shoulders of the other players, leaped into the circle, seized the ball, and ...cast it beyond the mark."

  Creeks today still play stickball, sometimes competing in tournaments against other tribal groups. The game remains a part of the annual ceremonial cycle. Games are occasionally played on this field, which is designed especially for that purpose.

[Photo captions]

{Bottom left}: Artist George Catlin painted this image of a game he witnessed in 1834. Entitled Ball-play of the Choctaw—Ball Up, it provides us with one of the best known images of a game in progress. Courtesy
of the Library of Congress

{Middle Right}: Marquis de Lafayette
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

{Bottom middle}: Ball players in Broken Arrow, OK, circa 1930s
Courtesy of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Museum & Cultural Center

{Bottom Right}: A Youth Social Game in the Tulsa Creek Indian Community, Tulsa, OK
Courtesy of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Museum & Cultural Center
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HM NumberHM1X62
Year Placed2014
Placed ByThe Historic Chattahoochee Commission and the Russell County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 at 5:01pm PST -08:00
Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 686247 N 3580295
Decimal Degrees32.34406667, -85.02093333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 32° 20.644', W 85° 1.256'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds32° 20' 38.64" N, 85° 1' 15.36" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)334
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 567-581 AL-165, Fort Mitchell AL 36856, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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