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Episode 1 – Stickball

Keep the bandages handy! I have to admit I was more than a little nervous when we set off for Choctaw, Mississippi for this week’s episode . After some serious flight delays at the Dallas airport we arrived just in time for the annual Choctaw Indian Fair. I was expecting a bit of a brutal lesson in the traditional Choctaw sport called stickball. It’s similar to lacrosse with fewer rules and more bloodshed. No helmet or pads allowed!

I learned a lot about stickball from Choctaw elders I met on my trip. Apparently, hundreds of years ago, players were killed while settling disputes playing stickball. At one point playing stickball was banned because it was considered so dangerous. These days there is ambulance waiting by the field at the stickball championships.

Stickball is really popular in the Choctaw community, and hundreds of people come to watch the championships. It is played with two sticks called kapucha, one in each hand. The players pass the ball or towa, with the stick. The point of the game is to score a goal by hitting a pole, or fabvssa, with the ball. It is very intense, and kind of intimidating.

I was put through my paces by a guy named James Denison. He is a veteran stickball player. He certainly knows about the bumps and bruises you can get on the field. He had to stay off the field for this year’s championship because of injuries.

Stickball is one of the toughest sports I have ever tried, and it is a true test for this Coast Salish warrior. Did I mention it is really hot in Mississippi?