What Is Indigenous North American Stickball? Google Doodle Celebrates Sport

While searching on Google today, users have noticed that the site has adapted the iconic logo to celebrate the sport of Indigenous North American stickball.

Boasting a Google logo illustration by Saint Paul-based Native American artist Marlena Myles, the stand-out design celebrates one of North America's oldest team sports.

What Is Stickball?

Google Doodle celebrates Stickball
Young members of the Cherokee playing Stickball in North Carolina, US, 1963, and inlay, a picture of the Google Doodle for November 1, 2022 designed by artist Marlena Myles. Kamsler/BIPS/Hulton Archive/Getty Images & Google

Often likened to lacrosse, stickball was first played by several Native American tribes including the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole, and Yuchi.

One Cherokee tale describes the first-ever stickball game that was played between land animals and birds.

A bear, deer, and turtle were overly confident that they would win the game through sheer strength, but the team of birds used speed and cunning to outsmart the land animals and, in the end, were the winners of the game.

Traditional stickball games were often played over several days, with as many as 1,000 men from opposing tribes. The game played a huge role in keeping the peace and was often organized in place of violence.

Alongside settling disputes, it was also used as a practice to toughen young warriors for combat and as a fun addition to festivals and celebrations.

Today, stickball is still played by groups around North America. Players take turns throwing the ball down the field that has two poles or sticks at each end. Stickball sticks have a rounded end and are used to hurl the ball down a field toward teammates who hit or touch the pole to score points.

Each game starts with traditional rituals, often including smudging or burning of tobacco. This is said to purify players' minds before starting the game.

While the rules and traditions around stickball have evolved over time, the basis of the game remains an important way for communities to stay close to Native traditions.

Why Is Google Celebrating Stickball?

In 1990, President George H. W. Bush declared the month of November as U.S. Native American Heritage Month. A proclamation that was re-iterated by President Joe Biden on October 31, 2022.

Biden said: "Now, Therefore, I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim November 2022 as National Native American Heritage Month.

"I urge all Americans, as well as their elected representatives at the Federal, State, and local levels, to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities, and to celebrate November 25, 2022, as Native American Heritage Day."

The stickball illustration celebrated by the November 1 Google Doodle is marking the first day of Native American Heritage Month.

Illustrator Marlena Myles told Google: "I was very excited to create something fun, meaningful and that can teach many people about an ancient sport of Native people which is still practiced today."

While creating the image that is now in pride-of-place on the Google homepage across all of North America, Myles listened to interviews and documentaries to gain a deeper understanding of the game.

"It's a healing sport of the whole community," she explained. "People aren't just playing to win but playing for their community's health. This sport has played an active role through the generations in our many tribes, and it will continue to do so."