Historic Markers Across Alabama

Pokkecheta, or the Ball Play

Marker ID:  
Location: 561 Highway 165, Fort Mitchell, AL
County: Russell
Coordinates: N 32° 20.644    W 085° 1.256
  32.34406666    -85.02093333
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: None


Pokkecheta, or the Ball Play
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
2014 by the Alabama Archaeological Society, the Historic Chattahoochee Commission and the Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Association.


Photo may be fond on hmdb.org

End of Pokkecheta, or the Ball Play