After the winter hunts, and during the hot summer when wild game was not fit to kill, Indians of the American plains devoted themselves to a rugged, skull-cracking ball game that we know as lacrosse. One of the fastest games afoot, it was given that name by the French Canadians who thought the curved, netted stick looked like a bishop's crosier. The game was taken up by white men in the 1840s. An interested observer of the Indians at about that same time was an Army officer, Captain Seth Eastman, stationed on frontier duty as commandant of Fort Snelling in Minnesota. Captain Eastman was a trained topographer who also wielded a paint brush with considerable skill and made a study of Indian customs, work and play. The paintings on these pages are his record of their wild and hectic ball game. On a playing field, marked out by stakes a quarter mile apart, two teams, often of unequal numbers and usually from rival villages, fought it out all day. Eastman reports that it was not uncommon for the whole day to pass without either team scoring a point. Heavy bets were made by the bleacher crowd which sat it out on horseback or squatted cozily on a heap of dry grass and an old Indian blanket, and as tension grew the piles of wampum increased. Many an Indian treasure changed hands before nightfall. Eastman, soldier and artist, after distinguished service to his country in the Civil War, was retired a brigadier general. He died in Washington, D.C. in 1875.

PHOTOCORCORAN ART GALLERYThe frontier country of the West in the middle of the last century enchanted a young Army officer, Seth Eastman, who spent his leisure time while on duty there painting scenes of Indian life. His Indians Playing Lacrosse (above) is his most noted canvas PHOTO PHOTOPEABODY MUSEUM, HARVARD UNIVERSITYSquaws Playing Ball, by Seth Eastman, shows that Indian women of the plains were as lithe and dexterous as their men, who gathered around the sidelines to cheer
PHOTONEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARYBall games played by the Sioux in winter often took place on a frozen river, as in this engraving after an Eastman painting. Objects of value, bet on favored teams, were piled on the ice