Brenner Billy, Craftsman
Brenner Billy is a Choctaw tribal member whose family history is interwoven with the game of stickball.
Brenner’s father, grandfather and great-great uncle all made kapucha, or stickball sticks by hand, and he began making the sticks himself around age 12. It is painstaking work, beginning with selecting the perfect tree followed by drying and shaping the wood by hand. From start to finish, a set of sticks can take up to a month to complete.
In his role as program coordinator for the Choctaw Cultural Center, Brenner brings the history and traditions of the Choctaw people to life for fellow tribal members and guests who visit from all over. He has also begun teaching others how to make the sticks as a way of giving back to the Choctaw community and helping preserve the culture for future artisans who will continue the artform after Brenner is no longer able.
“FOR ME, IT'S KIND OF A WAY OF SHARING LOVE FOR THE GAME BUT ALSO THAT SENSE THAT THIS IS PART OF MY CONTRIBUTION TO MY HISTORY, TO MY HERITAGE, TO MY PEOPLE.”
Stickball is one of the oldest organized sports played in North America. Part celebration, part ceremony, part physical test of endurance, stickball lives on as a unique and distinctive part of Southeastern Native culture.
Choctaw stickball, or ishtaboli, is historically known for its aggressive, full-contact play. Often serving as an alternative to war, the game was used as a method of mediating conflicts and tensions between tribal members as well as other towns or districts.
Today, stickball stands as an enduring part of Choctaw culture not only as a sport but also as a way of teaching traditional social structures and family values. The game illustrates the importance of working together toward a common goal and contributing to the success of the community, both core values of the Choctaw Nation.
The Choctaw Cultural Center is an excellent resource for learning more about the game of stickball. Visit choctawculturalcenter.com to see a schedule of exhibition games, workshops and cultural displays.
Together, We're More
More Than a Craftsman
The things we do today resonate into the future in ways we cannot measure. In this video, Brenner Billy explains why making stickball sticks impacts more than just the game and the players who use them.