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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Fort Mitchell in Russell County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)
 

Pokkecheta, or the Ball Play

 

—Creek Heritage Trail —

 
Pokkecheta, or the Ball Play Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 4, 2017
1. Pokkecheta, or the Ball Play Marker
Inscription. 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
This marker is just to right of another marker about "Stick Ball." image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 4, 2017
2. This marker is just to right of another marker about "Stick Ball."
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
Painting from marker of Pokkecheta stick ball action (marker detail). image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 4, 2017
3. Painting from marker of Pokkecheta stick ball action (marker detail).
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
 
Erected 2014 by the Historic Chattahoochee Commission and the Russell County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
 
Location. 32° 20.644′ N, 85° 1.256′ W. Marker is in Fort Mitchell, Alabama, in Russell County. Marker can be reached from County Route 165 2.3 miles south of Nuckols Road (Road 39). Touch for map. Marker is located to the back side of the Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Center Monument adjacent to Fort Mitchell National Historic Landmark Site. Marker is at or near this postal address: 561 Highway 165, Fort Mitchell AL 36856, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Indian Ball Ground (here, next to this marker); Archaeology And Our Understanding of the Creek People (a few steps from this marker); Fort Mitchell and Creek Removal (within shouting
Pokkecheta, or the Ball Play Marker on right, past wall. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 4, 2017
4. Pokkecheta, or the Ball Play Marker on right, past wall.
J.W. and Ethel I Woodruff Foundation Interpretive Trail
distance of this marker); The Census of 1832 (within shouting distance of this marker); The Creek Nation / The Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Center (within shouting distance of this marker); The Creeks Today (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Removal of the Creeks (about 400 feet away); The Creek Trail of Tears (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fort Mitchell.
 
Categories. EntertainmentNative Americans
 
Marker on left, just this side of wall. image. Click for full size.
By Mark Hilton, February 4, 2017
5. Marker on left, just this side of wall.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on March 8, 2017. This page originally submitted on March 7, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 120 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on March 7, 2017, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.
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