The Best Stickgame Tournament of My LifeAug 15th, 2007 | By jjackson | Category: Student 2007
By James Edmond Jackson, Sr.
A stickgame tournament was scheduled at the Nespelem Colville Confederated Tribes powwow at the Colville Tribal Indian Agency near Nespelem, Washington, and I wanted to get in. The powwow is held during the 4 th of July Independence Day every year. There is a big free feast on the 4 th at the powwow grounds and hundreds of people attend. They bus the tribal elders from the Colville Tribal Convalescent Center to the dinner. There are thousands of Native Americans that attend the powwow from many different reservations.
The first few days of the Nespelem Powwow are slow because there are a lot of different powwows going on at different reservations during the 4 th of July. They have bingo the first few days. Some tribal members run concession stands, and other people set up as vendors and there is a carnival. The people start coming to the Nespelem Powwow when the dancing begins. Usually between 50 and 100 teepees and camps are put up unless there are a lot of deaths on the reservation. There is a tradition here that family members are not to attend a powwow if a close family member dies until a year after the death.
The dancing competitions, stickgame tournament, baseball tournament, foot race, Indian Parade, and rodeo don’t start until the last few days of the powwow, when all the people come in from the many different reservations.
The stickgame tournament was about to begin, and I was looking for a team to get on. I asked the team that I like to play on if they needed a player, and they said they had enough players. I saw some other people looking for a team to play on and got the idea to get them all together to form our own team called the “LEFT OVERS.” Before long I had 10 people for a team. Some I did not know because they were from different reservations. We decided to take turns pointing and hiding the bones. We had to let the other team know who the pointer was and who had the bones.
I will explain the stickgame rules used on the Colville Indian Reservation. There are 10 sticks, 5 to a team, and a kick stick. There are two sets of bones with a solid white one and a white one with a colored stripe in the middle. Each team gets a set of bones to start and the pointer for each team guesses the bones. The kick stick is stuck in the ground between the teams. The pointers, one on each team, guess until one pointer guesses the white bone and the other pointer guesses the striped bone.
The pointer that guesses the white bone wins the kick stick and both sets of bones to begin play. All sticks are stuck in the ground, five on each side, and are considered alive. The team without the kick stick designates a pointer to guess the white bones of the team that has won the kick stick. If the pointer guesses either one or both of the white bones, the pointer wins the bones, or a set of bones, depending on which was guessed. The team that hides the bones sings songs, pounds a stick in front of the team, and drums while the other team guesses and does not sing, drum, or pound their stick. The guessing team can make hissing sounds, yips, or wave around pretending to guess, so it is good to know who the real pointer is so you will not be deceived and throw the bones over by mistake. If you throw over the bones by mistake, you lose the bones.
The pointer must give the other team a stick for each bad guess or kill one of the live sticks for each bad guess by laying it down. The game goes on until one team gets all 11 sticks. Before the game begins, each team takes a collection of money and it is matched by the other team and put in a pot in the middle. The winner wins the pot of money. In tournament play there are a number of teams competing and many games are played until a winning team is declared. If any team is caught cheating, the team is automatically disqualified and loses.
At the Nespelem stickgame tournament, we played many games. We played one game for 8 hours straight. I lost my voice singing and got laryngitis. Both my arms felt like they were going to fall off from pounding the stick, and I wore a hole in my new blue jeans from kneeling on the ground. It was the hardest I ever worked in my life, but it was worth it to win the tournament. It took a lot of endurance because we almost lost a few times when we were down to our last stick and felt like giving up. It had been one of the goals of my life to win a stickgame tournament, and I fulfilled that goal.
James Edmond Jackson, 59, has lived on the Colville Indian Reservation all his life and attends Northwest Indian College. He has attended college on and off for 40 years. He hopes to earn his first degree in business management and start a business to employ his children. Prior to his retirement, he worked over 20 years as a power operations specialist at the largest dam in the United States, Grand Coulee Dam.
Jackson is thankful to the following teachers for their mentoring at Northwest Indian College: Roger Jack (his cousin-in-law), his English teacher, Stuart Rick Gillespie, his Algebra teacher, and Jerry Heber, his Speech teacher.