See Traditional Cherokee Games and More at the Cherokee World Games | Cherokee, NC

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See Traditional Cherokee Games and More at the Cherokee World Games

(Photo by Kristy Herron)

On Monday, July 22, visiting groups from five countries will gather in Cherokee, NC, to demonstrate traditional games and activities from their homelands as part of the Cherokee World Games, presented by Folkmoot. The countries represented will include Egypt, Romania, Hungary, the Bahamas, and the United States—which will include members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. 

Learn About Chunkey, Cherokee Marbles, Atlatl, and Stickball

The Cherokee Friends from the Museum of the Cherokee Indian will demonstrate and talk 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. Not familiar with these games? We break them down, below.

Chunkey is 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. 

In the game of 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. 

The atlatl (pronounced at-latal or atal-atal) is 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. 

In addition to the games above, there will be two demonstrations of Cherokee stickball. The first game will be an exhibition between The Hummingbirds and men from the visiting groups. The final event of the day is a match between Kolanvyi (Big Cove) and Welalu (Hummingbirds).

Stickball is 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 from our earlier blog post

Other Games

Additional representatives from the USA, The Cloggers, will play and teach the finer points of cornhole during the day. There will also be demonstrations of traditional games from Egypt, Romania, Hungary, and the Bahamas, that will be announced the day of the event. 

Food Trucks

Calhoun's Frybread will be on site selling frybread (traditional Indian bread) and Indian tacos. Front Porch Cakery and Deli will also be on site, with popcorn from Tubby's, and there will likely be an ice cream or shaved ice vendor as well! 

Cherokee Vendors

Over a dozen various artists and merchandise vendors will participate in the day’s events. 

Artists will have beadwork, basketry, jewelry, and stone carving, as well as photography on display, and for sale. The Cherokee Welcome Center will bring branded clothing, bags, and totes for sale, and will have general information about Cherokee, NC, on hand, as well as details about other fun upcoming events.  


Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds

545 Tsali Blvd.

Cherokee, NC 28719


Games begin at 2 pm and conclude at 7 pm on Monday, July 22


Students: $5

Adults: $10

EBCI members get in free with a reserved ticket. Call Folkmoot at 828-452-2997 to reserve tickets, or email Lisa Spring Wilnoty at 

Buy tickets here.

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