Stickball unites cultures

Photos by Thom Larkin | Daily TidingsFrom left to right, Noah Slater, Garrett Little, Uriel Wolfe-Blank, and James practice stickball in Lithia Park Sunday morning.

Takauwich, Baa gaa do we, stickball or shinney. No matter what you call it, it all adds up to a traditional game played by Native American tribes that Red Earth Descendents is reviving in Ashland.

Organizers say it's a way to connect with their native roots, teach the community about their heritage and reach out to the dominant culture.

Mike Vasquez, 46, with Red Earth, said everyone is invited to participate in their Sunday practices at 10 a.m. at Lithia Park. He hopes that when people participate, they'll enjoy it so much they'll get a team together for the organization's Native Games competition on March 22 in the field next to Jackson Wellsprings.

About 12 people showed up for a recent practice session, including Shemaiah Gooden of Ashland, who joked that he's from the Irish tribe.

"I've been involved with the Red Earth Descendents for years. But I just started playing shinney about one and a half years ago," he said. "It's a lot of fun. But it can get a little rough."

That's how most of the players described the game, which is similar to lacrosse. The versions of the game are as varied as the names. In some parts of the country, a player uses two sticks to catch, block, steal and score with one ball. The Red Earth's version uses one six-foot-long stick with two tennis balls attached with a leather strap, called a billet.

Vasquez, from the Chumash/Yaquai tribes, said Native Americans traditionally used wood or rocks for the billet, and the game, often used to settle disputes between tribes, could result in serious injuries or deaths.

"It's often been called Little Brother of War," he said.

"The tennis balls are a modern day version, somewhat of a safety measure," said Gooden.

The rules are simple: Don't grab another player's stick and don't grab the billet.

"We want to be mindful of others, especially if many cultures are playing against each other," said Gooden.

Twelve-year-old Tasker Crow of Ashland, a Lakota, said the pre-game training is brief. "They basically give you a stick and tell you to go out there."

The object of the game is to wrap the billet around your scoring post at either end of the field.

Michele Becraft, 30, of Ashland said she was hooked after playing one game.

"Every week there's different people who show up. Women, men, kids," she said. "It's a great workout and a positive way for kids to use up some of their energy."

Robert Greygrass, a Lakota/Cherokee who was in Ashland recently performing Native American storytelling, stopped by the practice field to watch the game before heading back to Hollywood.

"These are my brothers""my extended family. I try to come up for all their seasonal events," he said.

Greygrass said he loves the fact that children like Tasker are learning the old ways. "He's even taken up grass dancing."

Native games tournament

Red Earth Descendants are hosting their second annual Native Games tournament on March 22 in the field next to Jackson Wellsprings in Ashland.

"We had a pretty fair turn out last year," said Gooden. "But this year we're reaching out to as many other teams as we can."

He said the native student unions from Portland State and University of California, Berkeley, are bringing teams. Gooden also said they are encouraging Southern Oregon University and the Wilderness Charter School to bring teams.

The $50 team entrance fee is to raise money for the group's Elder-Youth Conference that will be held in June at Earthteach Forest Park in Ashland. For more information about Sunday practices and the March tournament, call 890-3529 or 201-8101.

A historical timeline of the evolution of the Native American stickball game into the modern game of LaCrosse. — —

1636 — Jesuit Missionary Jean de Brebeuf is the first to document the game of lacrosse.

1794 — A match between the Seneca and Mohawks results in the creating of basic rules.

1834 — Caughnawaga Indians demonstrate the sport in Montreal. The game is reported by the newspaper and, for the first time, white men are interested in the sport.

1867 — Dr. William George Beers, the father of modern lacrosse, finalizes the first set of playing rules for the Montreal Club.

1876 — Queen Victoria watches and “endorses” a lacrosse game in Windsor, England. New York University is the first college in the United States to establish a lacrosse team.

1881 — The first intercollegiate tournament is held at Westchester Polo Grounds in New York.

1890 — The first women’s lacrosse game is played at St. Leonard’s School in St. Andrew’s, Scotland.

1904 — Lacrosse is first played as an exhibition sport in the Olympics in St. Louis. The United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse League is formed. Laurie D. Cox, William C. Schmeisser and Charles Lattig form a committee to develop a uniform code of operation for college lacrosse, and divide the colleges into north and south divisions.

1926 — Rosabelle Sinclair reestablishes women’s lacrosse in the United States when she starts a team at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore.

1931 — The United States Women’s Lacrosse Association (USWLA) is formed as the rule — making body for women’s lacrosse.

1933 — The USWLA holds its first national tournament in Greenwich, Conn.

1937 — Robert Pool introduces the first double-walled wooden stick, an early prototype for today’s plastic sticks.

1947 — The men’s field game positions change from goalkeeper, point, cover point, first defense, second defense, center, second attack, first attack and in home to goal keeper, attack, midfield and defense.

1959 — The Lacrosse Foundation is incorporated as the sport’s national development center and archive.

1967 — Coach Willis Bilderback of Navy wins his eighth consecutive intercollegiate title.

1971 — Men’s College lacrosse allies with the NCAA. The International Federation of Women’s Lacrosse Association (IFWLA) is founded.

1978 — The first issue of Lacrosse Magazine is published by The Lacrosse Foundation.

1982 — The first NCAA women’s championship is played at Trenton State University between the University of Massachusetts and Trenton State University.

1985 — The Rocky Mountain Lacrosse Foundation becomes the first of many regional chapters of The Lacrosse Foundation. The Japan Lacrosse Association is formed. The major Indoor Lacrosse League revives professional box lacrosse in Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

1990 — Coach Roy Simmons, Jr. of Syracuse University is the first coach to win four NCAA titles.

1997 — The University of Maryland wins it’s fifth NCAA women’s championship. U.S. Lacrosse is founded and incorporated as the national governing body of men’s and women’s lacrosse. On March 14, the new Lacrosse Museum and National Hall of Fame are rededicated, completing the expansion of the U.S. Lacrosse headquarters.

2001 — The IFWLA World Cup is played in High Wycombe, England where the U.S. defeated Australia for the cup.

2002 — The International Lacrosse Federation World Championship are played in Perth, Australia where the U.S. defeated Canada for the championship.

2003 — The ILF and IFWLA U-19 World Championships are held in Towson, Maryland where the U.S. teams won both titles.

2005 — The IFWLA World Cup is played in Annapolis, Maryland and won by Australia who defeated the U.S. 14-7 in the gold medal game.

Information courtesy

Reach reporter at 482-3456 x226 or .

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