Meskwaki Anthology


From the desk of Johnathan L. Buffalo

(Note: From an article that ran in the Jan. 31, 2003 issue of the Meskwaki Tribal Newsletter)


A gentleman from Oregon named John Hull, formerly from Iowa, has donated some pictures to the Tribal archives including the two Meskwaki Lacrosse team photos shown here. Mr. Hull has been donating pictures to the Tribe for some time now. He had attended our Annual Pow Wow for many years until he moved out of state. He said that his grandfather had purchased hides and furs from Meskwaki hunters in the late 1800’s near Marshalltown, Iowa. Thank you, Mr. Hull, for your generous contributions of photos and memories!

American Indians played a number of team sport ball games such as racket, shinny and double ball. In none of these games is the ball ever touched with the hand, and doing so was strictly forbidden by the rules of the game. The Meskwaki word for “Racket” or “Lacrosse” is Atti – pronounced Ah-CHEE. Racket was an aboriginal invention in the Americas but, as is the case with many Indian cultural and intellectual properties, some non-Indian people insist that the French brought the game of Lacrosse to this land and dismiss the possibility that the French commandeered racket and took it back home to their land.

Variations of this appear widespread among most American Indian tribes. The Algonquian and Iroquoian tribes on the Atlantic seaboard as well as the Algonquian and Siouan tribes in the Great Lakes region were known to enjoy playing this game and were highly competitive. Team sports have a strong presence throughout American Indian history, whereas individual sports such as tennis and croquet were more prevalent in Europe up until the last century or so.

“Racket” was a men’s game in which the ball is tossed with a racket. The game was played by two opposing teams and could last a long, long time. Among the Meskwaki, the teams would typically be the Black Team – or Tokans – versus the White Team – or Kiskos. And we all know which team tends to cheat and which team complains a lot, don’t we?