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Anetso, the Cherokee Ball Game

Anetso, the Cherokee Ball Game: At the Center of Ceremony and Identity

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    Anetso, the Cherokee Ball Game
    Book Description:

    Anetso, a centuries-old Cherokee ball game still played today, is a vigorous, sometimes violent activity that rewards speed, strength, and agility. At the same time, it is the focus of several linked ritual activities. Is it a sport? Is it a religious ritual? Could it possibly be both? Why has it lasted so long, surviving through centuries of upheaval and change?Based on his work in the field and in the archives, Michael J. Zogry argues that members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation continue to perform selected aspects of their cultural identity by engaging in anetso, itself the hub of an extended ceremonial complex, or cycle. A precursor to lacrosse, anetso appears in all manner of Cherokee cultural narratives and has figured prominently in the written accounts of non-Cherokee observers for almost three hundred years. The anetso ceremonial complex incorporates a variety of activities which, taken together, complicate standard scholarly distinctions such as game versus ritual, public display versus private performance, and tradition versus innovation.Zogry's examination provides a striking opportunity for rethinking the understanding of ritual and performance as well as their relationship to cultural identity. It also offers a sharp reappraisal of scholarly discourse on the Cherokee religious system, with particular focus on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0394-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION Taladu quo! (It is still 12!)
    (pp. 1-32)

    Throughout the first decade of the twenty-first century, certain members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have continued a centuries-long practice by engaging inanetso, what has, in English parlance, come to be called the “Cherokee ball game.” Anetso, as an event, is itself the focus and hub of an extended series of distinct activities. This series of actions can and has been identified as a ceremonial complex (or cycle), because historically it has featured virtually every activity that Cherokee people and non-Cherokee observers have identified as elemental of Cherokee “religion” or “ritual.” However, interpreted as “game” within a...

  5. 1 Tadatse anetsodu (Go and play with them): Anetso in the Cherokee Narrative Tradition
    (pp. 33-66)

    The inclusion of anetso in several Cherokee cultural narratives of different genres is one facet of its cultural cachet among members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation.¹ Key Cherokee narratives include the ball game, either literally or as a figure of speech to indicate a contest or battle of some kind. Review of the received scholarly classification of narratives along with explication of the Cherokee mode of oral transmission of knowledge helps to illustrate this embedded importance.

    Situating these narratives in their given order as designated by Mooney and contextualizing them by presenting summaries of selected other salient narratives...

  6. 2 Hani! (Here!): Anetso as an Enduring Symbol of Cultural Identity in an Era of Great Change (1799–1838)
    (pp. 67-106)

    Two hundred years ago, the Moravian missionaries John and Anna R. Gambold complained about the Cherokee ball game in a mission school report to their bishop, Carl Gotthold Reichel.¹ The passage in the July 1808 report read: “That ball game seems also to have had a bad effect on our Indian children. It seems that they imagined that because of it they were at once accepted into the class of men, and believed they could demand more freedom.”²

    The Gambolds’ complaint to their superior is a revealing statement. Participation in the ball game was an assertion of identity for Cherokee...

  7. 3 Ahaquo! (Still there!): The Anetso Ceremonial Complex
    (pp. 107-146)

    This chapter will situate the anetso ceremonial complex in what I am calling “the Cherokee religious system.” First I will discuss a transition in the Cherokee religious system from a hereditary priestly caste to independent individual practitioners. An overview of green corn ceremonialism will follow; these were the most durable elements that survived the transition from what was once a yearly cycle of ceremonies. Then I will provide basic information on those constituent activities of the complex that are key elements of the Cherokee religious system and summarize continuity and change in the performance of these activities since the late...

  8. 4 Tseduga! (Pass it to me!): Performing the Cherokee Ball Game in the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 147-184)

    In 1900, James Mooney concluded his “Historical Sketch” of the Cherokee with the following line: “The older people still cling to their ancient rites and sacred traditions, but the dance and the ballplay wither and the Indian day is nearly spent.”¹ In 2009, despite Mooney’s dire prognosis, it is clear that the sun has not set on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation. As I discussed in Chapter 3, while the majority of Cherokee people identify themselves as Christians, there are Cherokee individuals of various ages who adhere to selected elements of an identifiable Cherokee religious system.

    As for the...

  9. 5 Woye! (Foul!): Theory and the Meaning of Anetso
    (pp. 185-226)

    When the manager of the Wolftown anetso team and the players walk across the street to the bank of the Oconaluftee River and stand single file facing the water, he talks to them before they engage in amohi atsvsdi, the “going to water” activity. In October 2005, a cultural consultant told me that the manager speaks to them about why they continue to play anetso and participate in associated activities. At that time he also tells them why and for whom they are playing:

    1. For mothers and grandmothers, because they are where the blood comes from, they determine your...

  10. CONCLUSION Taladu ogisquodiga (12, we finished)
    (pp. 227-236)

    The cultural cachet of anetso is notable for members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation. At least three generations of Cherokee players and spectators live on or near the Qualla Boundary. Played regularly only one week of the year at the Cherokee Indian Fair, the Cherokee ball game nevertheless remains important to many Cherokee people for what it is, what it represents, and what it recalls. There is no question that for a number of Cherokee people anetso has little or no significance, nor is there any question that the complex as a whole has contracted. Yet the information...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 237-286)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-304)
  13. Index
    (pp. 305-318)