In honor of Native American Heritage Month, today’s Google Doodle celebrates Indigenous North American Stickball, a predecessor of modern-day lacrosse that originated with Indigenous peoples of the Southeast.

Google commissioned artist Marlena Myles for the Doodle. A citizen of the Mohegan and Muscogee (Creek) nations and member of the Spirit Lake Dakota tribe, Myles depicts three different versions of stickball in her art, including the ceremonial pregame practice of sage smudging in the “G” of the customized Google logo that will greet billions of visitors to the world’s most popular website and search engine.

“I have many friends who make their own sticks and play the game as a community event here in Minnesota, the homeland of the Dakota people,” Myles said in an interview published by Google. “I enjoy seeing them pass the tradition onto the next generations too. The game isn’t just for sport or exercise, but also is considered a healing activity for the mind and it helps create a healthy body and mind. I believe those are very important in today’s world just as it was important for my ancestors who played stickball.”

“I was very excited to create something fun, meaningful and that can teach many people about an ancient sport of Native people which is still practiced today in both the traditional version using traditional sticks and the adapted version known to many as lacrosse,” she added. “I also could learn more about the different styles played in different regions, so it was a learning experience for me as well.”

“It’s a healing game given to us by the Creator.”

Historically, Native American communities throughout North America played different variations of lacrosse. Three primary styles came from the Northeast, Southeast and Great Lakes regions. Although rules and equipment differed, legend tell of teams composed of 100 to 1,000 players, goals set between 500 yards to a mile apart and contests that might last for days. 

Myles features three different styles of sticks in her artwork based on versions of stickball played by the Indigenous peoples of those regions. There’s the circular hoop of Great Lakes tradition, the egg-like basket used by the Southeastern tribes who often played with two sticks and the oblong style fashioned by the Indigenous people of the Northeast that most closely resembles what lacrosse sticks look like today.

“I was inspired by interviews of players and how the game is meaningful to them in their lives,” Myles said. “I made sure to include the messaging and imagery that the game has a ceremonial aspect to it, it’s a healing game given to us by the Creator.”