Throwing of the Ball Ritual - Tapa Wanka Yap:

"In Native American philosophy the fundamental interconnectedness an oneness of all beings forms the basis of all other aspects of their understanding of the universe. Therefore, any cause has its effect both on the entity involved, as well as on the whole, and events never stand isolated. Living and acting in harmony with the Great Spirit is the basis of all ethics. It saves one from harming others and oneself, leading ultimately to a return to the Great Spirit, from which we all come, and to wholeness instead of loneliness or separateness."

Plains Indians teach their children to cease thinking and acting for the sake of one's own gain, but to think and act for the betterment of their family and tribe. They tell them to "Do right, because it is right, and not to gain for yourself." When they do the right thing the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka knows and sees that it has been done correctly.

"The American Indians hold sacred the virtues of truthfulness, courage, generosity, and reverence for life. They practice direct communication with the Great Spirit, whom they call Wakan Tanka, through seven sacred ceremonies. As told by Black Elk to Joseph Epes Brown, these include:"

The Throwing of the Ball Ritual is done only by the traditionalist Native Americans, if its done at all any longer. The ritual is only one of many rituals being lost to posterity and many young people do not even know of it.

The ball represents Wakan Tanka or the universe. The game symbolizes the course of a man's life, which he should spend in trying to catch the ball even though the odds of catching the ball are against him.

A Lakota man named Moves Walking had the vision describing this rite but did not speak of it until much later when High Hollow Horn had a dream telling him Moves Walking knew of a seventh rite from White Buffalo Cow Woman that should belong to all the people. High Hollow Horn went to Moves Walking and told him of his dream so Moves Walking agreed to share his vision.

A buffalo skin ball filled with buffalo hair that is first painted all red representing the world. Blue paint (representing the heavens) is used for the four dots that are made at the four quarters. Then two blue circles are made around the ball to make two paths joining the four quarters. This painted buffalo ball represents the material and spiritual aspects of the universe.

The following items are used in the ceremony besides the ball; a pipe, kinnikinnik, sweet grass, a spotted eagle feather, knife, hatchet, sage, bag of earth, red and blue paint, a buffalo skull and a food rack painted blue. Each of these items are used in ceremonial prayers before the players begin the game.

The ritual uses four teams and four goals. Each goal was set on one of the four sacred directions; east, south, west and north.

A very young Sioux girl stands in the center representing Wakan Tanka as eternally youthful and pure with no darkness. She also represents the first stage of the four stages of  life and Mother Earth and future generations. She throws the ball to each goal and everyone at the goal scrambles to catch the ball. Only one of those trying to catch the ball will end up with it.

The goals represent that Wakan Tanka is everywhere, including all of the four directions.  Then the young girl throws the ball straight up into the air and all the teams try to get it. This represents the power from Wakan Tanka that descends on the people. When one person finally has possession of the ball it is given back to the young girl. The ones that catch the ball are given a valuable present such as a horse or a buffalo robe. These five winners represent the few people who reach a special closeness with Wakan Tanka even though many seek that closeness.

To receive a great blessing, each of the people participating  must choose to reach for the ball, while acknowledging or understanding that not everyone will be able to catch it. After the five catches of the ball, a prayer of thanks and acknowledgment is made and Wakan Tanka is asked to help the people retain its relationship with him and help them walk the sacred path without ignorance.

Then everyone sits down to a huge feast of traditional Native American food.

Native American wisdom is present in all of the tribes and passed on in many ways. But it is a shame to lose the old, traditional ceremonies and the understanding of why they were done.

According to Black Elk, the Throwing of the Ball is the 7th and last of the 7 Sacred Rituals given to the people by White Buffalo Cow Woman.



The Sacred Pipe, Black Elk's Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux. recorded and edited by Joseph Epes Brown. University of Oklahoma Press,1953,1989