Anetso, the Cherokee Ball Game

At the Center of Ceremony and Identity

By Michael J. Zogry

328 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 17 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2227-9
    Published: December 2014
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-9820-8
    Published: July 2010

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Anetso, a centuries-old Cherokee ball game still played today, is a vigorous, sometimes violent activity that rewards speed, strength, and agility. At the same time, it is the focus of several linked ritual activities. Is it a sport? Is it a religious ritual? Could it possibly be both? Why has it lasted so long, surviving through centuries of upheaval and change?

Based on his work in the field and in the archives, Michael J. Zogry argues that members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation continue to perform selected aspects of their cultural identity by engaging in anetso, itself the hub of an extended ceremonial complex, or cycle. A precursor to lacrosse, anetso appears in all manner of Cherokee cultural narratives and has figured prominently in the written accounts of non-Cherokee observers for almost three hundred years. The anetso ceremonial complex incorporates a variety of activities which, taken together, complicate standard scholarly distinctions such as game versus ritual, public display versus private performance, and tradition versus innovation.

Zogry's examination provides a striking opportunity for rethinking the understanding of ritual and performance as well as their relationship to cultural identity. It also offers a sharp reappraisal of scholarly discourse on the Cherokee religious system, with particular focus on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation.

Sponsored by First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies

About the Author

Michael J. Zogry is associate professor of religious studies and director of Indigenous studies at the University of Kansas.
For more information about Michael J. Zogry, visit the Author Page.


"Innovative, compelling, and thoroughly researched. . . . Specialists in Cherokee religion, ritual studies, and religion and sports will appreciate this book."--Religion in American History

"A remarkable assessment of anetso. . . . An important and compelling work. . . . It will certainly remain the standard text on the topic for years to come."--Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources

“The kind of book that I would like to see more of . . . . Zogry has, with the publication of his rich book, renewed a (scholarly) tradition of importance.”--Ethnohistory

“A significant contribution to the field of Cherokee studies, particularly Cherokee religious studies . . . . Zogry’s analysis of the ball game is deeper and more nuanced than those that have come before.”--Journal of Southern History

"A fascinating exploration of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians' ball game, Anetso." --Journal of American History

"A superb amalgamation of historical and ethnological methodologies and interpretations of evidence, Zogry demonstrates the defiant persistence of Cherokee cultural and religious elements embedded within Anetso that contemporary Cherokee ball players and spectators continue to embrace today."--H-Net Reviews

Multimedia & Links

Read: Zogry's guest blog posts at