All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Lauren E Downs

Advisory Committee Members

Chris Kyle

Stephen R Merritt

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


This study examines the viability of Native American stickball as a comprehensive peace system developed for the primary purpose of ameliorating hostilities, preventing war, and creating a landscape of peace. Originating as early as the 12th century, Native American stickball is recognized as the oldest field sport in North America. More than a game, stickball is steeped in symbolism and comprised of rich oral histories, elements of fictive kinship alliances, religious connotations, and other prosocial mechanisms designed to create and maintain peace. To determine how the interplay between these various components is adaptive through time, a three-phase research model was employed to address three specific research objectives. How was the institution of Native American stickball used in the past to facilitate or maintain peace? What is the role of peace processes within the institution as practiced today? How might stickball be employed in the future to create and maintain peace? Phase I involved a literary search that produced published oral histories and eye-witness accounts from the early colonial and historic periods and a complimentary assemblage of contemporary academic perceptions of peace and peace systems. Phase II entailed participant observation of stickball as it is practiced contemporarily and was accomplished through 1.5+ years of immersed fieldwork with several members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI). In Phase III structured interviews were conducted with representatives from four federally recognized tribal entities. The results of this study demonstrate that although the iv mechanisms of function can and do transform and adapt to changes within the sociopolitical environment, the practicality of Native American stickball’s role as a peace system remains viable and dynamic. Stickball is also enjoying a renaissance in modern Southeastern Native American culture. This resurgence in popularity is growing at an unprecedented pace and stickball continues to operate as both an intertribal and intratribal peace system into the 21st century.



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