The stick games were back in Klamath on Saturday, as the Klamath team hosted competitors from Weitchpec and McKinleyville in five different age divisions.
The stick games are a native game that has been played in Del Norte for many generations by the Yurok and Tolowa people.
“It’s rough,” said Klamath coach Lance Bates with a laugh. “I would say it’s kind of like a version of lacrosse and hockey with maybe some rugby mixed in there. It’s fun, but it’s rough — It isn’t for everybody.”
Bates said the games were traditionally played by the men of the tribe. On Saturday the competitors were all under 15 years old, however, with divisions of 5 and under, 6-7, 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15.
“We didn’t have any men’s teams show up today, but at the salmon festival we do,” Bates said. “Traditionally it is a man’s game, and we have kind of made it sporty so that all the kids can play.”
Bates said the Klamath stick team has a total of 22 kids this year, down from about 30 kids last year.
“Our big age brackets would be 5 and under and 10-11,” Bates said. “Last year I think we had about 30 kids, but we had a lot of older kids last year that all graduated. We don’t have anyone in the 16-17 bracket this year.”
Saturday was the Klamath team’s second tournament of the season this year, and the first at home.
“There was a good turnout and we had some good games out there,” Bates said. “It was nice that the Wolf Pack from Weitchpec stepped up so that our older boys could play. We are just trying to build strong young men, and keep them on the right path. Keep them away from drugs and drinking. When we are done here we are going to a tribal dance now. A lot of these boys do it all.”
The Stick Games will be back in Klamath on Aug. 18, hosted by the Yurok Tribe as part of the Annual Salmon Festival. Bates said the Klamath team will also compete in a tournament in Weitchpec this year.
“Thank you to everybody that helped make this happen,” Bates said. “We will be here next year on the closest weekend to the Fourth of July.”