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Source: Indian Games
Category: Ball Games

INTRODUCTORY NOTE.--This ball game was known to a number of tribes that
formerly lived on the prairies, and called by different names. The game as
here given is as it was played among the Omaha. The opening of the game was
ceremonial. The person who performed the opening ceremony had to belong to
the tribal group that had charge of the rites pertaining to the Wind, for
the figure outlined on the ground by the movements of the ball in the
opening ceremony was one of the symbols of the Wind. The Wind when spoken
of ceremonially was called the Four Winds, one for each of the four points
of the compass. These Four Winds were regarded as the messengers of the
Giver of Life, known as Wakon'da by the Omaha and kindred tribes. The
recognition of man's connection with the forces of Nature did not disturb
the pleasure of the Indian when entering upon a game; on the contrary, it
tended to enhance his happiness by bringing to his mind his dependence upon
Wakon'da, together with the feeling of being in accord with the power
represented by the Wind.

_Properties_.--A ball about three or four inches in diameter; the Omaha and
kindred tribes made the ball out of the root of the wild-grape vine. As
many sticks as there are players, the sticks to be about three feet long
and crooked over at one end. Each stick should be marked by some design
invented by its owner, so that each player can identify his stick.

[Illustration: DIAGRAM OF THE TA-BE

1 Circle showing lines made by the ball

2 Goals

3 Guardians

4 Players at the opening of the game]

_Directions_.--A wide open field is best for this game. Two goals, one at
the East, the other at the West. The goals are each made by two posts with
a cross piece on top. The path of the ball is East and West.

The officers of the game are: an Umpire, four Guardians of the Path. Two of
the Guardians of the Path stand at the eastern goal and two at the western
goal. The two Guardians at a goal represent the two sides; one wears a
yellow streamer or badge, the color of the West; the other wears a red
streamer or badge, the color of the East. A red streamer is tied to the
goal at the East and a yellow streamer to the goal at the West. It is the
duty of the one who wears the color of the goal by which he stands to try
and help the ball through the goal when it comes in that direction, and it
is the duty of the one who wears the color of the opposite goal to prevent
the ball from going through and to send it back into the field or toward
the other goal.

The players on the two sides are chosen in the following manner: The person
who is to act as Umpire and to perform the opening ceremony must sit in a
circle drawn on the ground, about six feet in diameter, and face either the
North or the South. All the sticks are placed before him in a bunch. He is
then blindfolded. After that he picks up a stick with each hand and lays
down the stick that he has in his right hand on his left side, the stick
that he has in his left hand he lays down on his right side. When he has
finished dividing the sticks in this manner they are in two bunches, one
toward the East and the other toward the West. The blindfold is then
removed. When that is done, all the players run to the two heaps and each
takes his own stick, recognizing it by the design marked or cut upon the
stick. All those whose sticks were in the pile to the East must tie on a
badge or streamer the color of the East, red. All those whose sticks were
in the bunch toward the West must tie on the color of the West, yellow.

All the players must now stand in two lines. One line starts from the
circle and extends directly toward the goal at the East; all in this line
must be only those whose sticks were in the east pile and who have on the
color of the East, red. The other line starts from the circle and stretches
out toward the west goal, and is composed of those whose sticks were in the
west pile and who have on the color of the West, yellow. The four Guardians
of the Path take their places. The Umpire wears no color. All being in
readiness, the Umpire advances to the middle of the circle.


The Umpire places the ball in the exact center of the circle, then he
gently urges it with his stick in a line toward the North until it reaches
the edge of the circle. There he picks it up and puts it back in the center
of the circle. Again he gently pushes it with his stick along a line toward
the South until the edge of the circle is reached, when he returns the ball
to the center of the circle with his hand. In the same manner as before he
sends the ball slowly along a line to the West. When the edge of the circle
is reached he picks up the ball and returns it to the center. Once more the
ball is moved in a line, this time to the East; when it touches the line of
the circle it is picked up as before and placed in the center of the
circle. The symbolic figure that has thus been made is that of a circle
within which two straight lines cross each other at right angles; the
circle is divided into four quarters, one for each of the Four Winds.


Every player now stands at attention, with his stick ready for action. The
Umpire pauses a moment at the center of the circle, then he picks up the
ball lying there and throws it into the air as high as he can. All the
players, who have watched the throw, run in the direction where the ball
seems likely to descend, in order to have a chance to strike it toward one
of the goals.

To win the game the ball must be sent through a goal; to strike it so that
it goes over or around the goal does not count. The ball must be made to
take a straight line, to "make a straight path" through a goal, then the
game is won. When a good shot is made, all on the side of the one who made
the stroke should send up a shout. When the goal is won the winning side
should give the victory cry of the game, "Ta-be!"



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