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Anetso, the Cherokee Ball Game

At the Center of Ceremony and Identity

Michael J. Zogry

Publication Year: 2010

A precursor to lacrosse, anetso, a centuries-old Cherokee ball game still played today, is a vigorous sport that rewards speed, strength, and agility. It is also the focus of several linked ritual activities. Zogry argues that members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation continue to perform selected aspects of their cultural identity by engaging in anetso. He shows that it is a ceremonial cycle that incorporates a variety of activities which, taken together, complicate standard distinctions of game versus ritual, public display versus private performance, and tradition versus innovation.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-x

For their friendship, as well as thoughtful engagement with and support of my work over the years, thanks in particular to Frank M. Chapman, Vincent J. Cornell, Sam D. Gill, James B. Jeffries, Joel S. Kaminsky, James M. McLachlan, Carrie McLachlan, Michael McNally, Craig Prentiss, Anne F. Rogers, and...

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Introduction: Taladu quo! (It is still 12!)

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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 in anetso, what has, in English parlance, come to be called the “Cherokee ball game.” Anetso, as an event, is itself the focus and hub of...

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1. Tadatse anetsodui (Go and play ball with them): Anetso in the Cherokee Narrative Tradition

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pp. 33-65

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. Key Cherokee narratives include the ball game, either literally or as a figure of speech to indicate a contest or battle of some...

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

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pp. 67-105

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. The passage in the July 1808 report read: “That ball game seems also to have had a bad effect on our Indian children. It...

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3. Ahaquo! (Still there!): The Anetso Ceremonial Complex

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pp. 107-145

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...

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4. Tseduga! (Pass it to me!): Performing the Cherokee Ball Game in the Twentieth Century

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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.” In 2009, despite Mooney’s dire prognosis, it is clear that...

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5. Woye! (Foul!): Theory and the Meaning of Anetso

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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...

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Conclusion: Taladu ogisquodiga (12, we finished)

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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...


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pp. 237-285


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pp. 287-304


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pp. 305-318

E-ISBN-13: 9781469603940
E-ISBN-10: 1469603942
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807833605
Print-ISBN-10: 0807833606

Page Count: 392
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010