November 1st marks the beginning of Native American Heritage Month and Google has teamed up with Native American artist Marlena Myles to share her inspiration. Today’s Google Doodle artwork depicts one of North America’s oldest team sports, Stickball. Marlena Myles tells her story and how she drew inspiration from fellow Native Americans who still carry on the long-lived tradition to this day. Based in Saint Paul, Marlena Myles is a member of the Spirit Lake Dakota/Mohegan/Muscogee tribe.
What is Stickball
If you grew up in the earlier parts of the 20th Century, stickball likely conjures up a gaggle of children in the street playing a baseball-like game with, well, a stick and a ball. However, for many Native American tribes, Stickball is a centuries-old tradition that is cut from the very fabric of their being. Similar to lacrosse(the popular sport actually has its roots in Native American Stickball), opposing teams used a variety of sticks with some form of a hoop at the end that was used to move a ball from one end of the field to another. Scoring varies from style to style and points can be scored by hitting poles at the goal ends of the field or running the ball through the poles. Check out this video from the Cherokee Nation YouTube channel to see Stickball in action.
Marlena Myles and her Doodle tells the story of the Stickball tradition being passed down through the generations. Even today, Native Americans across the country still craft their own sticks and engage in the age-old game and the traditions from which it was born. Stickball was once used as a non-violent competition to settle disputes and Myles says that today the game is often played to bring healing to the community. The pre-game often began with “smudging” which consisted of burning spices or tobacco to cleanse the mind in preparation for the competition. According to Myles, this was seen as a reminder that all life is connected – even and especially the lives of the opposing teams.
Myles hopes that her artwork can convey the deep tradition and healing nature of Stickball. Whether as a means of physical and mental well-being or a method in which to bring harmony to the community around us, Stickball represents harmony and peace. I, for one, believe that the world could use more encouraging pastimes like Stickball and I hope to learn more about this beautiful tradition. See the full interview with Marlena Myles here and check out her amazing Doodle at Google.com.