Manataka American Indian Council
Indian children and adults play many different types of games for enjoyment and to hone their athletic, hunting and survival skills. Children are also taught to play games to enhance their social development and life skills. Their very survival often depends on team work learned while playing the games. Many of the games started hundreds, (thousands?) of years ago are still played by many American Indians today.
This page is dedicated to Manataka members Mèssochwen Tëme and Gu'gu'gwes Davis for their work to preserve American Indian games.
Equipment used to play the games have been adapted to fit material easily accessible today including everything you need to play lacrosse.
(Cheyenne Basket Game)
Presented by Mèssochwen Tëme
Monshimout is a game from the Cheyenne people and played by women. It could be played by two or more players, and if played by more than two, then the players divided into two equal teams.
Game equipment consisted of five plum stones and a basket made of woven grass or willow twigs. The basket measured 3-4 inches deep, 8 inches across at the top, and almost 1/2 inch thick. The plum stones were left plain on one side, but marked on the opposite side. Three were marked using a pattern similar to markings the women used when painting their face: a cross (used on the bridge of the nose), and side marks (used on cheeks, forehead, and chin). The other two stones were marked with a representation of a bear's foot.
players sat opposite each other, in two rows if more than one player. Each
player has eight sticks which represent the points she must score to win. When a
player has won all the sticks belonging to her opponent she has won the game and
the stakes wagered. If teams are playing, each member wins or loses according to
the winnings or losses of the teammate in control of the basket and stones.
A throw of the stones is done this way. The stones are placed into the basket and the basket is raised slightly and the stones tossed only a few inches and caught in the basket. The basket is then brought down firmly onto the ground so that it strikes the ground with a slight noise. The manner in which the stones land in the basket determine the points scored or lost, as well the control of the throw. A player continues to throw so long as she throws a scoring toss, if she throws a toss with no score the throw passes to her opponent or to the next player. If teams are playing it passes to the thrower's teammate and continues as such until the last teammate throws. If the last member of a team throws a zero score the throw passes to the opposing team.
The scoring is as follows:
2 blanks, 2 bears, 1 cross = 0
4 blanks, 1 bear =0
5 blanks = 1 (the thrower takes 1 stick)
3 blanks, 2 bears = 1 (thrower takes 1 stick)
2 bears, 2 crosses, 1 blank = 1 (thrower takes 1 stick)
2 blanks, 3 crosses = 3 (thrower takes 3 sticks)
2 bears, 3 crosses = 8 (thrower takes 8 sticks and wins game)
As noted earlier, if teams are playing, each team member wins or loses the same as the thrower.
As with most games, wagers were made and placed prior to beginning the play. During this game the players did not sing, but did chat and joke quite heavily.
comes to us from the Choctaw of Mississippi. Chungke' was a game of great skill
played by adults, but sadly, it also demonstrated the tragic consequences of
heavy gambling. It was common for the players to wager, literally, everything
they owned including even their weapons. It was not rare for the loser to return
home, borrow a gun and commit suicide. Suicide was considered a crime, and the
the body was buried without any of the normal ceremony.
The game was played on a specially prepared surface by two players utilizing a stone and two javelins (spears). The playing surface consisted of an "alley" 200 feet long, and covered with a very smooth clay. This clay, when dry, formed an extremely hard surface. Each player had a javelin which measured 15 feet in length, without pointed ends. They looked more like skinny poles than spears. One player also had a stone which was flat, approximately 1 1/2 - 2 inches thick, and approximately 10-14 inches in diameter.
The player holding the stone would throw it down the alley. As soon as he released it the two players started running after it. While running the other player throws his pole towards the stone attempting to strike it. The player who threw the stone throws his pole at the opponent's pole, attempting to knock it out of flight thereby preventing it from hitting the stone. If he succeeds he gains 1 point and retains the throw of the stone, if he fails and his opponent's pole hits the stone, then the opponent scores 1 point and the throw of the stone. If both miss their targets, no points are scored and the throw is repeated. The game is played until one player has scored 11 points which is the winning score.
Gambling was prevalent in the games presented on these page. The story about Chungke illustrated just how tragic the results of gambling can be. These games should be enjoyed for their fun, the valuable skills they help to develop, and to keep our traditions alive. Gambling should not be a part of them, but rather it should be something to be avoided like alcohol and drugs.
Nehiyaw Ma Tow We Na
Games of the Plains Cree
Long ago, the survival of many Indian people depended on their skills as hunters. The children were taught these skills at an early age either by their fathers or by playing among themselves. Games filled an important role in educating the young by cultivating life skills together with their physical and social development.
The adults also had games which were played purely for enjoyment. These were generally based on gambling, a favorite pastime for many Indian people.
New games could be received as gifts from another tribe or a tribe could invite someone to teach them a new game. Children often played the same games that their fathers once played or they might receive them in a fashion similar to that of the adults. The games were usually modified in some form by each tribe that received them. One game could be played by many tribes, each using their own variations. Despite these slight differences, one tribe would often challenge another tribe in some of their games. This usually happened at the "KO WE TA SQEEK", a time when certain tribes would meet together in times of peace. Sports often dominated these gatherings. The best runners or players from both tribes would compete against each other, while the spectators placed wagers on their favorites.
After the treaties were signed, many bands from one agency would gather together on treaty day to socialize with others. During the day, the adults would spend their time visiting with others or taking part in gambling games. The children were usually busy in track and field events or racing ponies.
Today, on many reserves, these games are still played by the children on sport days or whenever there is a large crowd gathered.
Equipment used to play the games have been adapted to fit material easily accessible today. Attempts have been made to give the standard method of playing, listing a few of the variations. Technical details such as rules, equipment and field size are left to the reader to decide, although suggestions are included.
Ball games were very popular among many North American tribes. These games demanded agility, teamwork, and skill in running, passing and throwing. Since many of these games involved hitting or passing the ball with a stick, players had to avoid blows from their opponents. The Cree had three favorite versions: lacrosse, shinny, and double ball. Occasionally, one tribe or band would compete against another in these games.
Indian Cultural Centre
120 33rd St. East, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, S7K 3S9
|Cup and Pin Game||Sosemanuk (Snow Snake)|
|Hoop and Pole Game||Striking the Bow|
|Is Pe Mek (Up There)||Tahhtihnakico - Shooting Arrows|
|Lacrosse||Tossing the Ball|
|Playing with a Ball (Shinny)||To We Picikan (Slingshots)|
|Sliding Game - (marbles)||Wapetuuskawen - Mud Sticks|
|We Pitisowewepahikan - Double Ball|
|Games of the Plains Cree|
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