Traditional Cherokee sports and Games

Chunkey, Cherokee Marbles, Atlatl, and Stickball

Learn about traditional games including atlatl competitions, chunkey, marbles, and stickball. These ancient games were played by men and hold a special place in Cherokee tradition.


A game played with a disc stone and wooden poles on a smooth field about 100 feet long and 12 feet wide. Typically, a village would only have one disc, which was usually a polished stone, sometimes made of quartz. The poles, which were about eight feet long, were carved from hickory, and featured marked notches. They were often rubbed with bear grease. Only two men would play the chunkey game at a time. One would roll the stone and then both men would throw their sticks. In the Cherokee game, the score was determined by how close to the stone the stick landed.

Cherokee Marbles

The marbles used were the size of a billiard ball, and made from stone. The game was played on an “L” shaped field about 100 feet long and over 50 feet wide. Five holes were placed about 10 to 12 feet apart, with the last hole at the end of the field. In the game, men would shoot the marbles and aim to land them atop the first hole before they could advance to the next hole. Strategy included hitting the opponents’ marbles out of the way. Today, two and three man teams are common, and teams must have an equal number of players.

atlatl (pronounced at-latal or atal-atal)

A form of archery using a spear-thrower that predates bows and arrows. In ancient times, mastodons were hunted using these weapons. Today, a handful of states permit the use of atlatls during hunting season. In addition to hunting, atlatl competitions take place all over the world with throwers competing for accuracy.


also called “The Little Brother of War,” as it was played to settle disputes from warring tribes. Even today, stickball is regularly played across the Cherokee nation. Though the sport of Lacrosse derives from stickball, Cherokee stickball players do not wear protective gear, making it a dynamic, and high-energy, full-contact sport. In stickball, players use a stick, usually made from hickory, with a scoop on one end made of leather or sinew webbing. A ball, about 3” in diameter is made of leather and sinew, and players must throw the ball using the sticks to a goal post in order to score. Learn more about the intricacies of this exciting sport.

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