Jon DeCelles created this graceful sculpture “Throwing the Ball” to symbolize the Native American ceremony of reconciliation or peacemaking that was done in the form of a game. The main figure stands approximately 10” tall on a base measuring 2 ½” X 6” X 5”, reaching an overall height of 12 1/2”.
The Throwing the Ball game mood, with innocent girls as principal actors, eases the tension when a serious situation has arisen. The game begins in a special tipi. At dawn the Holy Man first enters the tipi by himself and blesses the Sacred Pipe and all the other instruments of the ceremony by passing them through the smoke of the sweet grass.
Then the girl who is chosen to throw the ball that day is brought in and sits with the Holy Man. The Holy Man picks up the ball that he has made from buffalo hide and had stuffed with buffalo hair. He paints the ball red with two blue circles going round the ball. The color red stands for the earth; the color blue stands for the sky. In this way he brings the earth and the heavens together and shows that they move around each other in a peaceful, joined, way.
Over the buffalo skull he prays in thanksgiving for all that has been given to them through the buffalos help, food, clothing, shelter. It is because of these things that they are alive and well. He tells about the Bull Buffalo offering himself for everyones good.
He says that, when the mother buffalo has a newborn calf, she helps it get up and walk by snorting and nudging it out of the spirit world that it has lived in. She has to do this to make the baby not be afraid of a new world. She encourages her baby until it is able to get along in life, to grow up and live well on its own as an adult. Sometimes it is a struggle, but the task is to keep trying until the goal is reached.
After he has explained these things to the girl, the Holy Man tells the girl that he is giving the ball to her. She is young now, but one day she will be old. Like all old women she will always want peace, and she must know how to throw the ball to the people, because the ball represents the wisdom and teaching of the buffalo family about how to get along and live well. Whoever struggles and catches this ball will receive great blessings.
After these words the Holy Man and the girl leave the tipi and walk to the place where the ball is to be thrown. Once in the wide open space, the girl faces West and throws the ball high to the people who try to catch it there. She does this in each of the Directions, so that all the people can receive and learn the lesson of helping each other. The last time she throws the ball it goes straight up into the air, so the Grandfather can put his wisdom in it for the next time, when it is needed.
After this sacred game is over and quiet has come over the people , the Holy Man lifts the Pipe and asks the Great Spirit to watch over every one that He has placed on this Earth. Then all the people come and touch the Pipe and make their pledge.