Games Using Balls and Pebbles



Santee Dakota Indian ball play on ice, Minnesota
From "Games of the North American Indians"




The Swan Foot Game

This game was sent to us by a trusted source. He is Eagle, Sub-Chief of the (Reference)Shawnee Nation URB. We do now know if it was played by other nations.

Quote... "The swan foot game has a lesson to it. Each player has a dried swan's foot that was dried in the open position and slightly cupped. The Players use the dried swan's foot to throw and catch, a small round stone. The stone was simply thrown back and forth to each other. The winner was not the one who caught the rock the most but instead.... the one who threw the rock well enough that his partner could easily catch it. So the game is not to beat the other player, it is too help them do well. This teaches comradery and social skills. I've played it and I am sure the kids had fun with it." ... End of Quote

Ball Race

In Games of the North American Indians by Stewart Culin
Ball Race appears to be confined to the (Reference)Southwestern tribes, extending into Mexico and westward into California, and Idaho. It is a race, where an object is kicked generally around a circuit. Generally the object will be:

  • A ball or stone (Reference)(Pima, Mono, Tewa, Maricopa), or wood (Opata, Papago, Pima, Tarahumare, Zuaque, Cocope, Mohave, Yuma) (ball resembles a croquet ball in size.)
  • A single billet (Reference)(Navaho) or two billets (Keres, Tewa, Zuni)
  • A Ring of Rings (Tarahumare, Zuni)

The game was sacred to the War God, and the implements are sacrificed upon his altar. Implements used may be identified readily as conventionalized bows of the War Gods.

Toss-a-Ring Race

Reference Southwest In Handbook of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Mcfarlane
It talks of a game where women would toss a woven ring of strong twisted fiber around 40 yards without difficulty. Ring was 3 to 5 inches in diameter and 3/4 inch thick. The ring was picked up from the ground and tossed with a stick about 29 inches long. A contestant seen removing the ring from a hole in the rocks or from a stream with the hands was disqualified. The race was 500 yards to a mile or considerably more.

Kickball or Ball Toss Race. Reference Games of North American Indians and Handbook of American Indian Games.

Reference Southwest, Plains Game as above but with a ball around 2.5 inches and a forked stick was used.

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Southwest
Book mentions a game similar to that below except that a hardwood stick about 2 inches long and 3/4 inch thick was balanced on a bare foot, and thrown great distances with one simple kick. Longest distance counts.
Also another game was mentioned as played by adult men where a heavy stone was placed on the foot and kicked to demonstrate how stong the men were.

(Note from Faire Tyme) - Although the first quote below tells of the game never having more than 5 men other quotes talk of other tribes having many more than that play the game. Quotes put distances at anywhere from 3 to 40 miles, and they talk of runners making that distance in 6 to 8 hours. Only the foot was allowed to touch the ball no matter what the circumstances!
"A Rev Bernard Haile describes the game to Stewart Culin in a letter dated June 5 1902 stating information from a medicine man named Qatall Natloi, Laughing Doctor. (Reference Navaho. Arizona) "Iddi is football. This is a gambling game, and there are two parties five to a side at most. There may be less than five but not more. The players strip themselves and agree upon a distance which is regulated by the stake. A stick, about 4 inches long, of green pinon or oak, cut smooth and round is set into the ground about 2 fingers deep. The best runner works his toes, as hands and fingers are not allowed, under the stick, and kicks it ahead of him. Should he miss, his successor is ready to bring it into his territory again. The required distance being made, the home run begins, and whosoever has the ball at the starting point first wins the game and stake. The game was played only in the spring of the year, because it is not too warm during the that season. At present the Navaho do not play it. Some would not allow it, even in the springtime, as they claim it would bring a stormy season and much wind. They say the Great Earth-Winner Nl'nahuiebl'l, taught them the game"

In "A Zuni Foot-race or Kick Stick", in The American Anthropologist, Volume 3 page 227, dating 1890, Mr F W Hodge mentions the following (reference Zuni, New Mexico):
"Considering the extreme lightness of the race-stick, the distance which it is sent by a single kick, or rather toss, with the toes is remarkable. Very often a stick is raised aloft in this manner about 30 feet and falls at least a hundred feet from the point at which it was lifted. ..... Indeed, smooth ground is seldom met with over the entire course of 25 miles.

*****A game of ball race would be easy to set up by simply giving the kids something to kick while timing them from one point to another. Something like an old wash cloth tied into a rough knot/ball could easily be used for safety.


Kicking Ball Billets and Sling Ball,
Tewa Indians Arizona
Free Museum of Science and Art
University of Pennsylvania
From Games of the North American Indian
by Steward Culin

Kicking Billets, Zuni Indians, New Mexico
United States National Museum
From Games of the North American Indians
By Stewart Culin













Navaho BaseBall

Cullin mentions that a Rev. Berard Haile of St Michael Arizona (Reference Navaho) describes the following game which may have began when Navaho were imprisoned by the whites after 1863.
"Run Around Ball - This game is not played at present in it's original form, but was quite frequently played fifteen or twenty years ago...... The stick, or bat, be-akali, something to strike with, was an oak stick of this shape: J . Oak is hard and has great resisting power, and is used in nearly all the Reference Navaho religious ceremonies..... In this game the batter takes hold of the curved end and strikes the ball with the thin end, which is about of the thickness of the middle finger.
........
I have given the four bases the names of east, south, etc, although they are not thus called by the Navaho. they have a name for east, meaning the first place to run to, and for North, na''ilyed, run is finished.

The pitchers are called atchi'naalni', he throws toward him; for the other players there are no names. The pitcher may throw high or low, and the batter may strike at the ball from either direction (Faire Tyme Note - it seems that the catcher may pitch as well); there may also be two or three batters at the bat at one time, and a batter may be allowed to retire after two or three strikes and take up the bat at another more opportune time. The fourth strike compels the batter to run for first base, as also when he hits the ball, fair or foul, fly or grounder. Once on the base he is safe until he leaves it, though he may lead off, or until another batsman hits the ball. The runner and his side (one out is sufficient) are retired if the runner is touched or hit with the ball by the enemy, either before reaching first base or while he is making for any of the other points. the chase thus becomes interesting. Anything and everything is allowed to the runner to evade, being touched by the ball; he may describe a circle, dodge, jump, or knock the ball out of his enemy's hand to reach his base. Making the circuit scores one point, and whichever side scores most runs, or the number of runs agreed upon is the winner.

This is another of the great earth-winner's games. Being challenged by his Indian followers or companions, they gradually learned the games from him; they staked him for his wife, cheated him, and he lost; whereupon the Indians dispersed and played his games in their newly acquired countries."

*****This game would be relatively easy to replicate by simply using a baseball field and changing the rules to include those of the native game that you wish to include. It would though be dangerous to use two batters. However, the idea of a batter having many chances to hit, and only one out when a runner can run anywhere on the field that he wants to get to a base should be of great fun!

Double Ball

In Handbook of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
"Certain myths and religious beliefs dictated whether men and women or only men or women played many of the games. For instance, the women of certain tribes were thought to have been given the gift of the game of Double Ball from the moon. Because of this belief, the game was played, Reference with practically no exception outside of a few California tribes, only by women." (End of quote)

Double ball seems to be strictly a woman's game except in Northern California. It consists of two balls, sticks, or similar objects attached to each other by a thong, and the players use a curved stick to throw the balls. Sometimes it seems, Shinny sticks were used. This game seems to change greatly in form from tribe to tribe.

In "Games of the North American Indian", a Mr J A Michell describes the game under the name "Kicking game" or puseekowwahnuk as follows (Reference Cree, Assiniboia, Quáppelle.):
"The name of Kicking game seems to be a misnomer, as the game is in no way played with the feet. the game is played by women only, any number, but not by the old women, as great powers of endurance are required. It is in many respects similar to LaCrosse. The players are given various stations in the field and carry sticks. The goals are usually 1 mile or thereabout apart.

Players gather in a circle at the beginning and the double ball is thrown aloft from the stock of one of the leaders when the scrimmage commences and is kept up until one side passes the ball through it's opponent's goal.

The game is a very interesting one and develops much skill. It is, from a hygienic point of view, highly beneficial, as it develops a fine, robust class of women. As with all other Indian games, this game is invariably played for stakes of some kind."

In Life and Culture of the Hupa", Page 60, Berkeley, 1903, Dr Pliny Earle Goddard writes (Reference Hupa, California.):
The Hupa have four games. One of these resembles Shinny. .......... A straight course is laid out with a stake at each end. At least six players take their places in pairs, two at the middle and two at the points halfway between the middle and the stakes. The pair at the middle have the balls. Those at the other points stand facing each other with interlocked sticks. They are said "To tie" each other. One of the two at the middle of the course takes the two balls in his teeth. Suddenly he drops them and tries to drive them toward his goal by catching the buckskin loop on the end of his stick. If he succeeds, he runs after the balls and tries to strike them again before he is overtaken. If he is overtaken, the next pair of players release one another and start after the balls while the first couple wrestle. The third pair take up the game if the second couple become involved in a wrestling match. The side which succeeds in getting the balls to the stake wins. As the game is described as played in former times, it probably rivaled modern football in roughness."

In "Omaha Sociology", The third annual report of the Bureau of Ethnology, Page 338, 1884, Rev J Owen Dorsey writes (Reference Omaha, Nebraska):
"Two balls of hide are filled with earth, grass, or fur, and then joined by cord. At each end of the playground are two gabazu, or hills of earth, blankets, etc., that are from 12 to 15 feet apart. Each pair of hills may be regarded as the "home" or "base" of one of the contending parties, and it is the aim of the members of each party to throw the balls between their pair of hills, as that would win the game.

Each player has a very small stick of hard or red willow, about 5 feet long, and with this she tries to pick up the balls by thrusting the end of the stick under the cord. Whoever succeeds in picking them up hurls them into the air, as in playing with Grace Hoops. The women can throw these balls very far. Whoever catches the cord or her stick in spite of the efforts of her opponents tries to throw it still further and closer to her "home". The stakes are buffalo hides, small dishes or bowls, women's necklaces, awls, etc. The bases are from 300 to 400 yards apart."

To see a traditional native game of Double Ball in Progress click Here

To see a totally different use for Double Balls, click Here


Double Ball and Sticks.
Cree Indian. Wyoming.
Free Museum of Science and Art
University of Pennsylvania.
From Games of the North
American Indian
By Stewart Culin

Double Balls and sticks, Hupla Tribe
Free Museum of Science and Art,
University of Pennsylvania.
From "Games of the
North American Indian"
By Stewart Culin















Football.

Culin states that "information concerning the game of football is extremely meager and unsatisfactory." Most information is confused with other games. It was played by many tribes across North America including the Eskimo in the North (played in minus 30 to minus 40 degree temperatures), but there is little information describing how different tribes played it. We at Faire Tyme have been told by a Delaware member that it was often played by men and women together. Men could check men but not women. Women could check men but not women. No one could in any way touch an old woman, so if she got the ball she could simply walk to the goal and score!

Culin writes that a Dr J W Hudson describes the following ball game played between men and women. (Reference Mariposan Stock)
"The ball, pus-putch-ki, consists of an oblate spheroid 4 by 7 inches in diameter, and covered with buckskin and stuffed with deer hair.

The goals are two sets of poles, 3 feet apart and 8 feet high, bent at the top to form an arch, and 600 yards apart. The men are stationed in a line on one side and the women on the other. The starters, five men and five women, arranged alternately, stand in a line in the center of the field, at right angles to the goal course. At a word, a man casts down the ball and each side tries to secure it. The women must advance the ball with their hands, or with a handled basket, a-ma-ta, while the men can kick only, and must not throw or touch the ball with their hands, nor can they interfere with their hands. The women are very expert and throw the ball long distances."

In "The History of Travaile into Virginia Britannia", Page 77 Printed for the Hakluyt Society, London 1849, William Strachey says (Reference Powhatan, Virginia.):
"Likewise they have the exercise of football, in which they only forcibly encounter with the foot to carry the ball the one from the other, and spurned it to the goal with a kind of dexterity and swift footmanship, which is the honor of it; but they never strike up one another's heels, as we do, not accompting that praiseworthy to purchase a goal by such an advantage."

Lenope Football. (Please tell us if you find this link does not work!) Due to copyright we cannot post this on our web site. However, the information is available on this site... http://culture.delawaretribe.org/footballgame.htm

Hand-And-Foot-Ball


Hand and Foot Ball Game,
from cover of "Games of
the North American Indians"

"In Games of the North American Indians" by Stewart Culin, he mentions that the game of Hand-And-Foot-Ball is a woman's game played with a large ball which is struck with the hand and kicked with the foot. It is often played by one woman, but Eskimoes play it with two or four.

In"Travels in the Interior of North America", translated by H Evans Lloyd, Page 358, London, 1843, Maximilian, Prince of Wied says (Reference Mandan. North Dakota):
"The women are expert in playing with a large leathern ball which they let fall alternately on their foot and knee, again throwing it up and catching it, and thus keeping it in motion for a length of time without letting it fall to the ground. Prizes are given, and they often play high. The ball is often very neat and curiously covered in dyed porcupine quills."
Another quote in Games of the North American Indians mentions the ball being continually thrown up from the foot only.

*****This game could be safely played with kids today though the skills would probably need to be varied slightly in most cases. This would likely be more of a case of using the game to demonstrate to kids how skillful and energetic that these folk really were than a game that kids could easily take part in.

In "The Eskimo about Bering Strait. Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Part 1, Page 336, 1899, Mr E W Nelson describes the following game (Eskimo. Alaska).
"Women's football. (un-kal-u-g'it)"
This game is played by women usually during the fall and winter. The ball used is generally considerably larger than the one used in the men's game. The four players stand opposite each other.

Each pair has a ball, which is thrown or driven back and forth across the square. The ball is thrown upon the ground midway between the players, so that it shall bound toward the opposite one. She strikes the ball down and back toward her partner with the palm of her open hand. Sometimes the ball is caught on the toe or hand and tossed up and struck or kicked back toward the other side. The person who misses least or has fewer "Dead" balls on her side wins. At times this game is played only by two women."

Racket. Alternate names, Jeu de La Crosse, La Croix, or Lacrosse

Chocktaw ball player, Indian Territory; from Catlin
From Games of the North American Indian, By Stewart Culin

The following is a description of a Lacross game in Macinaw. The natives took the British fort through the clever use of the game.
This is taken from the following reference. Teacher’s Supplement for the February 2005 Issue of
The Mitten—Pontiac’s Rebellion
Prepared by the Education Staff of the Michigan Historical Museum
www.michiganhistory.org

“The morning was sultry. A Chippewa came to tell me that his nation was going to play at baggatiway with the Sacs or Saakies, another Indian nation, for a high wager. He invited me to witness the sport, adding that the commandant was to be there, and would bet on the side of the Chippewa, In consequence of this information I went to the commandant and expostulated with him a little, representing that the Indians might possibly have some sinister end in view; but the commandant only smiled at my suspicions.

Baggatiway, called by the Canadians le jeu de la crosse, is played with a bat and ball. I did not go myself to see the match which was now to be played without the fort, because there being a canoe prepared to depart on the following day for Montreal I employed myself in writing letters to my friends . . . when I heard an Indian war cry and a noise of general confusion. Going instantly to my window I saw a crowd of Indians within the fort furiously cutting down and scalping every Englishman they found.”

Although we think of this game as being played with only one racket it was often played with two. History records it being played on courses of 1/4 to 1 mile long with up to 80 to 100 men playing at one time per side. It seems that by times it would be played on courses of 4 and even up to 20 miles long. The game was definitely a man's game, but was by times played by women or men and women together. There were two poles at each end indicating the goal. Culin states "Racket is less widely distributed than shinny, being confined to the (Reference) Algonquian and Iroquoian tribes of the Atlantic Seaboard and the region of the Great Lakes; and to their neighbors, the Dakota, on the West, and the Muskhogean tribes of the South. It occurs again among the Chinook and the Salish in the Northwest, and in a limited area in California. It is not recorded in the Southwest.

Apparently, the game was often and possibly originally played with a wooden ball, and indeed once again quite possibly has connections to the Twin War Gods. It is stated that "Among the Huron, lacrosse is recorded by the Jesuit missionaries as played as a remedy for sickness." It is also stated that "There can be no doubt that, though the game of racket may have been modified in historic times, it remains an aboriginal invention", but then the writer goes on to mention that some believe that it comes from a game played in the Ardennes mountains of France.

Generally the game mentions the "Ball", but there is at least one mention of playing with "Balls". The rackets seem to generally be anywhere from two to four feet long. Often as mentioned two were used in some tribes.

LaCrosse has been the national game of Canada since 1859.

To see a drawing of a native game of Lacross with two rackets being played by a large number of players, click Here

To see the Native Legend of the Creation of the Bat and the Flying Squirrel in a Lacross game, please click Here

In "Travels and Adventures in Canada", page 78, New York, 1809 Alexander Henry states the following (Chippewa. Michigan): "Baggatiway, called by the Canadians le jeu de la crosse, is played with a bat and ball. The bat is about 4 feet in length, curved, and terminating in a sort of racket. Two posts are planted in the ground, at a considerable distance from each other, as a mile or more. Each party has it's post, and the game consists in throwing the ball up to the post of the adversary. The ball at the beginning is placed in the middle of the course, and each party endeavors as well to throw the ball out of the direction of its own post as into that of the adversary's."

In "Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter", Page 52. London. 1791, J Long writes (no reference provided): "The Indians play with great good humor, and even when one of them happens, in the best of the game, to strike another with his stick, it is not resented. But these accidents are cautiously avoided, as the violence with which they strike has been known to break and arm or a leg."

In "Travels through the Interior Parts of North America". Page 237. Philadelphia. 1796, Jonathan Carver says (Chippewa Wisconsin): "They are so exceeding dexterous in this manly exercise, that the ball is usually kept flying in different directions by the force of the rackets without touching the ground during the whole contention for they are not allowed to catch it with their hands.

They run with amazing velocity in pursuit of each other, and when one is on the point of hurling it to a great distance, an antagonist overtakes him, and by a sudden stroke dashes down the ball. They play with so much vehemence that they frequently wound each other, and sometimes a bone is broken; but notwithstanding these accidents there never appears to be any spite or wanton exertions of strength to effect them, nor do any disputes ever happen between the parties."

In Kitchi-gami, Wonderings round Lake Superior, page 88. London. 1860. J. G. Kohl writes (no reference. Wisconsin) -
"Of all the Indian social sports the finest and grandest is the ball play. I might call it a noble game, and I am surprised how these (folk) attained such perfection in it. Nowhere in the world, excepting, perhaps, among the English and some of the Italian races, is the graceful and manly game of ball played so passionately and on so large a scale. They often play village against village, or tribe against tribe. Hundreds of players assemble and the wares and goods offered as prizes often reach a value of a thousand dollars and more. On our island we made a vain attempt to get up a game, for though the chiefs were ready enough, and all were cutting their raquets and balls in the bushes, the chief American Authorities forbade this innocent amusement. Hence, on this occasion, I was only enabled to inspect the instruments. They were made with great care..."


This seems to be the most common Racket Type
Racket 40 inches. Pumo Indians
Field Columbian Museum
From "Games of the North American Indians"
by Stewart Culin.

Ball Baskets 16 and 18 inches.
Miwok Indians, Tuolumno County,
California
Collection of Dr C. Hart Merriam.
From Games of the
North American Indians
By Stewart Culin.











Racket 38 inches. Mohawk Indians. Grand River, On
Museum of Science and Art University of Pennsylvania
From Games of the North American Indian
By Stewart Culin














Father Jean de Brebeuf writes the following in "Relation of 1636", "The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents." v.10. Page 185. Cleveland 1897."
(Reference Huron - Thunder Bay)
Of three kinds of games especially in use among these peoples - namely, the games of crosse, dish, and straw, the first two are, they say, most healing. Is not this worthy of compassion? There is a poor sick man, fevered of body and almost dying, and a miserable sorcerer will order for him, as a cooling remedy, a game of crosse. Or the sick man himself, sometimes, will have dreamed that he must die unless the whole country shall play cross for his health; and no matter how little may be his credit, you will see then in a beautiful field, village contending against village, as to who will play cross the better, and betting against one another beaver robes and porcelain collars, so as to excite greater interest. Sometimes, also, one of the jugglers will say that the whole country is sick, and he asks a game of crosse to heal it; no more needs to be said, it is published immediately everywhere; and all the captains of each village give orders that all the young men do their duty in this respect, otherwise some great misfortune would befall the whole country."

Stick Game similar to LaCroix

In Indian Games and Dances with Native Songs Alice C Fletcher writes
Describes a game with flat rackets cupped in the end that seems similar to LaCroix. However, there is simply a goal post and the ball must strike that post in order to score.

Shinny. Alternate names - Bandy, and Hockey?


Drawing of Shinny
and Snow Snake
From Games of the
North American Indians

Culin writes "Shinny is especially a woman's game, but it is also played by men along (Reference) (Assiniboin, Yankton, Mahave, Walapai), by men and women alone (Sauk and Foxes, Twea, Tigua), by men and women together (Sauk and Foxes, Assiniboin), by men against women (Crows). It may be regarded as practically universal among the tribes throughout the United States. As in racket, the ball may not be touched with the hand, but is both batted and kicked with a foot. A single bat is ordinarily used, but the Makah have two, one for striking and the other for carrying the ball. The rackets are invariably curved, and usually expanded at the striking end. In some instances they are painted or carved."

In Grass Games & Moon Races by Jeannine Gendar she states that "Almost universally, though, one goal won the game. This is surely an indicaton of the game's difficulty and the wholeheartedness with which it was played." Would this same statement apply to a game of Lacroix (Lacrosse) played on a 5, 10, or 20 mile field? Makes sense but we have yet to find proof of that.

In the Fifth Report on the Indians of British Columbia - the report of the sixty-fifth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Page 583. London. 1895. Dr Franz Boas descibes the following game by the Niska of Nass River. (Reference, Niska. British Columbia.)
"Gontl: a ball game. There are two goals, about 100 to 150 yards apart. Each is formed by two sticks, about 10 feet apart. In the middle, between the goals, is a hole in which the ball is placed. The players carry hooked sticks. Two of them stand at the hole, the other players of each party, six or seven in number, a few steps behind them towards each goal. At a given signal, both players try to strike the ball out of the hole. Then each party tries to drive it through the goal of the opposing party."

Other quotes mention the game being played on a field up to 3/4 of a mile long, and the ball being thrown up to start the game. The latter in fact seems to be the norm. In Omaha Sociology - Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, page 336 of 1884 Rev J Owen Dorsey mentions that the game was often played with thirty, forty, or fifty men. (Reference Omahas, and Ponkas)

In a report to Isaac I Stevens, governor of Washington Territory, on the Indian tribes of the upper Missouri, by Mr Edwin T Denig, a manuscript in the library of the Bureau of American Ethnology, there occurs the following:
The principal game at ball is called tah-cap-see-cha, being the same denominated shinny, or bandy, by the whites." (hockey) This reference however does not prove a connection.

To see the native legend of the game of ball that the young Hatsehogan played with the gambling God Nohoilpi, click Here

To see the story of a game of Shinny, click Here


Lgth 35 inches; Cheyenne Oklahoma;
United States National Museum
From Games of the North American
Indian by Stewart Cullin

Top Stick Dakota Indians Montana,
Free Museum of Science and Art
University of Pennsylvania
Ball and stick Omaha Indians Nebraska,
Berlin Museum fur Volkerkunde
From Games of the North American
Indians By Stewart Culin











Stone-home Ball

(This name is given by Faire Tyme until/when/unless we can find another name for it.)

In "Some Games of the Zuni" in Popular Science Monthly, Volume 39, Page 40, New York 1891, Mr John T Owens described the following game (Reference. Zuni)
"A-we-wo-po-pa-ne. This is played by only two persons but each usually has several backers, and considerable betting is done. One place is designated as the stone-home. One hundred stones are placed in a row a certain distance apart. Each stone must be picked up and carried separately and placed, not thrown, in the stone-home. Another point, several miles distant, is taken, and the game is for one to run to the distant spot and return, while the other gathers up the stones. As it is a contest of speed and judgment, not chance, it becomes very exciting. "

Ball Court games.


Native Ball Court

In Sports and Games the American Indians Gave Us, by Alex Whiteny

Reference, Every major Maya City in Mexico and Guatemala contained a ball court where Pok-to-pak was played. The same sport was popular with the Indians of Southern Arizona and the Aztec, Toltec, and other Central American tribes who called it Tlachtli.

Each ball court was about fifty feet wide and slightly longer than a modern football field. It was flanked on two sides by high stone walls. Small temples at either end served as viewing stands for the priests and nobility. two massive stone rings usually carved with feathered serpents were set vertically on each wall twenty four feet above the ground.

The game combined the features of both basketball and soccer. Using elbows, knees, and hips but not hands the five players on each side attempted to drive a solid rubber ball through an eighteen inch hole in their opponents' ring. When-ever a player accomplished this rare and exciting feat, the spectators hastily departed since custom dictated that the scorer was entitled to their jewelry - if he could catch the reluctant donors.

Games involving Tossing the Ball.

*****There are many games under this title that would be suitable to play with kids today either in their original version or by modifying them slightly for safety, athletic ability, etc.
There are many descriptions outlining what we would think of as a simple game of catch. Such as "This amusement consisted only in tossing the ball at pleasure from one to another", or "Two sides placed themselves opposite each other and threw a thick leather ball back and forth".

hard to understand this game from the description.)
In Moeurs des Sauvages Ameriquains, Volume 4 Page 76, Paris, 1724, Charlevoix writes (Reference, Miami. Michigan)
"The second game is very like this one, but not so dangerous. Two boundaries are marked out, as in the first game, and the players take up all the ground which is between them. The one who begins throws a ball up into the air as perpendicularly as possible, so that he may easily catch it again and throw it toward the goal. All the others have their arms raised, and the one who seizes the ball either goes through the same maneuver or throws it to one of his parts who he considers more alert or more skillful than himself, for in order to win the ball must never fall into the hands of the adversaries. Women play this game also, but rarely. They have four or five on a side, and the one who lets the ball fall loses."

In the "Fifth report on the Indians of British Columbia, Report of the sixty-fifth meeting of the British Association for the advancement of Science, Page 583, London, 1895, Dr Franz Boas says (Reference, Niska. British Columbia.)
"Tlet. A ball Game. Four men stand in a square; each pair standing in opposite corners, throw the ball one to the other, striking it with their hands. Those who continue longest have won."

In the Central Eskimo, Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, Page 570, 1888, Dr Franz Boas says (Reference Eskimo, Central.)
One man throws the ball among the players, whose object it is to keep it always in motion without allowing it to touch the ground."

Similar to Jacks
In "A Concise natural History of East and West Florida", volume 1, page 81, New York, 1775, Capt Bernard Romans writes (Reference, Choctaw. Mississippi):
The women also have a game where they take a small stick, or something else off the ground after having thrown up a small ball which they are to catch again, having picked up the other. They are fond of it, but ashamed to be seen at it. I believe it is the propensity to gaming which has given these (....) folk an idea of a meum and tuum above all other nations of America.''

The above item can be ordered from Faire Tyme Toys. Please see "Our Catalogue".

In "Tribes of California, Contributions to North American Ethnology", volume 3, page 331, Washington 1877. Mr Stephen Powers describes the following game (Reference, Nishinam. California.):
The Pos-ka huk-um-toh kom-peh (tossing the ball) is a boy's game. They employ a round wooden ball, a buckeye, or something standing at three bases or corners, and toss it around from one to another. If two of them start to exchange corners, and the third "Crosses out" or hits either of them he scores one, and they count up to a certain number, which completes the game.

In "The Thompson Indians of British Columbia", Memoirs of the American Museum of Natural History, Volume 2 Page 278, New York, 1900, Mr James Teit tells the following (Reference, Thompson. British Columbia.):
The Lower Thompson had a ball game in which the ball was thrown up by one player. The player who caught it ran with it until overtaken by another player, who in his turn ran with it until a certain goal was reached."

In"Games of the North AMerican Indians", Culin describes the use of a ball by the Clowns in the Plaza at Zuni, May 27, 1904 (Reference, Zuni. New Mexico):
"The clowns produced a large, soft ball, and one of them made a mark with his foot across the middle of the plaza from north to south. Sides were chosen, half the clowns ranging themselves on one side and half on the other. One side had the ball, and one of the players on that side would run forward with it to the line and try to strike a player on the other. If he hit him, the latter went to the striker's side, but if he missed, the other side threw the ball.

In "Travels in the Interior of North America", translated by H Evans Lloyd, Page 422, London, 1843, Maximilian, Prince of Wied,(Reference, Haditsa, North Dakota.) referring to a visit of this tribe at Fort Clark, on November 27 1833, speaks of some of the women "Playing with a leathern ball, which they flung upon the ice, caught it, and then threw it into the air, catching it as it fell."

in Games of the North American Indians, a Doctor Hudson mentions "A game of casting a heavy stone ball with the top of the foot, the object being to see who can throw it farthest. Observed only in California among the tribes of two stocks (Reference, Mariposan and Moquelumnan).

Ball Juggling
In Games of the North American Indians, it is mentioned that Ball juggling was observed among (Reference) Eskimo, Algonquin, Bannock, Shoshoni, Ute, and Zuni, and was thus likely done in many if not most other tribes as well.

Shuffleboard Type Game
In "Among the Indians: Eight years in the Far West", 1858 - 1866, Page 197, Philadelphia, 1868, a Henry A Boller says (Reference, Hidatsa, North Dakota):
"The mania for gambling was by no means confined to the men. The women and young girls were equally imbued with it; and sitting down on a smooth place on the ice, they would roll a pebble from one to the other for hours together. Young infants were often kept on the ice all the while, their mothers or those who had them in charge being too much engrossed with their play to pay them any attention."

Come Back Ball

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Northwest Coast
Four girls stand each at the center of one of the sides of a 12 foot square marked out on the play area. Directly in the center of thee square a circle of 12 inches in diameter is marked. Each girl faces her rival across the square and the mode of play is to keep a volleyball or basketball (Used today instead of old stuffed balls) bouncing from the palm of one hand to the center spot and on to the girl opposite and the ball is bounced back in the same way. An impossible ball may count as a miss to the girl throwing it. Three misses and out. Then the gall goes to the other two girls. Another method of play is to have all four girls keep the ball going as long as possible, and subs may be allowed from the side lines. Lastly, they may use two balls at once and if the balls meet, which ever stays in motion counts a point.

Handicap Ball Toss

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Northwest Coast
Again, this would originally be played with the inflated bladder of an animal.
More modern versions of this game would use a volley, soccer, or basket ball. Old time versions would use an inflated animal bladder. Boys begin on a start line about 90 feet from the finish line ahead of them. First they throw the ball ahead, tossing it with one hand holding it behind the back and through the legs and one in front. Next toss is with both hands from behind the back up between the legs. Next toss is from behind with one hand between the legs with the left hand. The player runs toward the finish line as fast as possible between the throws.
Or the similar game Okotoks
Reference Plains
As above would be originally played with an inflated animal bladder
As above, but players stand with heel to a line facing away from it. Legs apart, they throw a basket ball or similar through their legs as far as it will go.

Shield and Ball

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Plains
Played with a shield made of buffalo hide. A circle of 30 to 40 feet is marked on the ground. One player with the shield stands in the middle. Other players stand around the edge and try to hit the player with the shield. Player in middle deflects balls with the shield. If a player can hit him with a ball, that player moves to the center of the circle. Players may decide that it takes a number of hits by any one person to give him sufficiant score to move to the middle. Players around the edge can throw stray balls that come their way.

Shield on Shield

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Plains
Two shields were needed for this game but one might be drawn out on the sand. Player with the shield moves back 12 to 20 feet from the shield laying on the ground or drawn there. Player tosses the shield so that it stays right on top of the other.

Clown Ball

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Southwest
Imagine a long center line with a line 15 feet from it on each side and parallel to it. Players line up about 3 feet apart on those lines. One side was given a semi hard 6 inch ball. One player would walk up the center line and throw it at a member of the opposing team. If he hit the player he scored, and that player came over to his side. He kept aiming at players and hitting them until he missed one time. Then rival team took over to do similar play. Game went on til one side had all of the men. So often overseers might shorten the game a fair bit by putting a time limit on it.

Three Throw Ball

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Southwest, Plains
Player lies flat on his back with his head touching a line. His hands down by his side until he is handed a ball to be thrown with one hand. Shoulders must stay flat on the ground. He makes three throws throwing a tennis size ball behind him. One with his right hand, one with his left hand and one with two hands. Throws are measured for distance.

Hit the Tree

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Woodland
Players would throw a stone at a dead tree approximately 8 inches in diameter from a distance of 20 to 40 feet. This would allow them to develop skills needed for hunting rabbits etc.

Star Ball

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Northwest Coast
Imagine a four point star with each point about 15 feet from the center. There is a small dug out hole 3 inches in diameter at each star point. The player stands in the middle. A smooth round pebble two inches in diameter was used. Player rolls the pebble at one point trying to get the pebble into one hole. Then, he uses another pebble to try to get the stone into another hole. A winner gets 4 pebbles into 4 holes, and he gets to keep the pebbles and gets to try again.

Ball in Air

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Northwest Coast, Plains
A soft ball around 7 1/2 to 12 1/2 inches in diameter was attached to a 24 inch thong which was held by the woman playing the game. She would then keep kicking the soft ball in order to keep it in the air continually while standing on one spot or moving only very small distances. Just one miss and the player was out.
Another game involved holding the ball with one hand while batting it with the other hand.

Ball Juggle Race

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Southwest, Plains
This game simply involved women racing to a marked spot like a tipi or similar while juggling two or three balls.

Drop Ball

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Northwest Coast
Very similar to the game of Drop Stick. A small ball cut from a piece of soft wood, or pebble, or bead is dropped from shoulder level into a sea shell about 5 inches diameter and 3 inches deep. Ball must stay in shell. If it bounces out the score is zero. Player has 3 tries, and if they become too good at it they are blindfolded or are turned around fast one or more times prior to dropping the ball.

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