Kwas’ kamaweFootball Game
Made by Roberta Smith
The ball in the Shawnee exhibit is a contemporary piece that is for display purposes only. Instead of deer fur, batting has been used for the inside material.
At the time of planting, and beginning in conjunction with the Spring Bread Dance, a series of women-against-men ceremonial ball games are played at the field adjacent to the dance grounds. First, bets are taken, often in the form of ribbons. Ribbons are traditionally a valued cultural possession. Ribbons are used to decorate traditional clothing and regalia. Each person’s bet (ribbon) is knotted to a comparable bet from the opposite sex. The paired bets are tied to a long string and suspended between two poles.
To begin the game, the Elder responsible for the ballgame tosses the ball midfield. Males can only kick the ball, whereas females can pick it up and run with it. Any age can play the game, but it can be a bit rough at times, all in good camaraderie. To score, one side must pass the ball through their opponent’s goal. After a team makes a goal, the ball is again tossed up in midfield.
A score keeper keeps track of the game with sharpened tally sticks in the ground. The first side to earn the designated number of points wins the game. The number of points can vary depending on the numbers of dancers selected for the bread dance. The players then collect their winnings.
Other tribes adopted this game from the Shawnees, including the Delawares, Seneca-Cayugas and Quapaws.