Native Games - A Quick Description




Introduction

The following is meant to be a quick reference of native games that can be easily played by young and old alike. Most of these can be used by a museum or school very quickly with little or no product to purchase. And most are games that kids will quickly catch on to and love. For more detailed information please click our other areas. Please remember that there were different games played by different tribes so this area can easily become over simplified unless used properly.

*****Look for the Green Stars. These games are all easily played today, some with very slight modifications. The other games are generally easily done, but in most cases special equipment is needed or special dexterity etc thus making them a little harder to use in programming.


Detail of Cheyanne Winter Games,
watercolor by W Richard West
From "Games of the North American Indian"
By Stewart Culin

Arrow Games...

  1. Remember that target practice is a great old game for kids with bows. Native children used special blunt arrows made to travel only a short distance.
  2. *****The Arrow Game... Simply place an arrow about ten to fifteen feet from the players. A simple dowel or stick can be the arrow. Then have them throw two arrows one at a time each to see if they can touch the first. The one who touches it most or gets closest is the winner. With older kids you could have them attempt to actually cross it to score.

    The Arrow Game above and the one below are available from Faire Tyme Toys as a two game kit for resale for museums involved with Native History. Please see "Our Catalogue".
  3. *****Reverse Ring Toss with Arrow ... Place a wooden or metal "Wagon hoop" size hoop on the ground. The player stands about 2.5 to 3 meters from it. The player faces away from the hoop. He then tries to throw sticks (arrows) into the hoop.

Ball Games...

  1. *****Ball Race...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. Remember that the course should be as long as possible.
  2. Hand and Foot Ball...Give kids 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. Another quote in Games of the North American Indians mentions the ball being continually thrown up from the foot only. Games like this were to improve skills to hunt and fish - i.e. to live.
  3. *****Navaho Baseball... For a proper description of this game please see our more detailed area. Click Here 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. We suggest not using two batters. But, explore the chances of unlimited strikes, one hit only, and running between bases a player can run anywhere on the field.
  4. Hand Ball #1... 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."
  5. Hand Ball #2... 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.
  6. *****Game of Catch... A simple game of catch as we know it was common.

Hand and Foot Ball Game,
from cover of "Games of
the North American Indians"
  1. *****Jacks... Take a small stick, or something else off the ground after having thrown up a small ball which you are to catch again, having picked up the other. Native women were fond of it, but ashamed to be seen at it.

    The Game above is available from Faire Tyme Toys for resale for museums involved with Native History. Please see "Our Catalogue".
  2. *****Form of Dodge Ball... Play with a large, soft ball, and make a mark with your foot across the middle of the playing field. Choose sides, half on one side and half on the other. One side takes the ball, and one of the players on that side runs forward with it to the line and tries to strike a player on the other. If he hits that player, the latter goes to the striker's side, but if he misses, the other side throws the ball. Be certain to use a very soft ball or tied cloth.
  3. *****Ball Toss with Foot... Toss a heavy stone ball with the top of the foot, the object being to see who can throw it farthest.
  4. Juggling... Was often done.

Hoop and Pole...

  1. *****Hoop and Pole... We suggest that you take a wooden hoop. Have one student roll that hoop. Have others line up along it's path a few meters away, and try to throw sticks through the hoop without knocking it down. If their stick goes through the hoop without hitting it they score one point. This will teach the basic concept of the one version.
  2. *****The other suggestion is to again have one student roll the hoop. Then, two other students throw sticks along the ground like snow-snakes, guessing where it will fall to try to have the hoop land on top of their sticks. If the hoop lands on the student's stick they score one point. Not easy of course! Best done with the hoop rolling down a slight trench.
  3. *****Ring and Pin (Cup and Ball... Cup and ball contests are loved by all.

San Carlos Apache Indians
Playing Hoop and Pole

Stick Games...

  1. *****Spin the Stick (Dipper)... Women gamble with a musk-ox dipper, which is turned swiftly around. The person away from whom the handle points wins."
  2. *****Number Games... A set of 40 or 50 sticks, representing ten different numbers are placed in a row. The players alternately try to repeat from memory, blindfolded, the order in which these ten numbers run.

    This Game above is available from Faire Tyme Toys as part of a "Stick Game Collection" for resale for museums involved with Native History. Please see "Our Catalogue".
  3. *****Hoop toss Game... Fasten a ring to a stick that is stuck in the ground...
    "The Players drop the sticks held in one hand through the ring, to see who can get the highest number through. This is done with the eyes open, blindfolded, after turning round."

This Game above is available from Faire Tyme Toys for resale for museums involved with Native History. Please see "Our Catalogue".

Stick and Pole Games...

  1. Snow Snake... Can be easily tried in proper weather conditions. Make a trench and slide the long straight stick through it.

Quoits...

  1. *****Version 1... For school or museum use to demonstrate an Eskimo game, simply place a mark on a thick mat, and lay it on a large desk or on the floor. Throw checkers, trying to score as above.

    The Game above is available from Faire Tyme Toys for resale for museums involved with Native History. Please see "Our Catalogue".
  2. *****Version 2 - Stone Throw... Throw a stone at a target, with about the same rules as are observed in the arrow game above. You try to land one stone atop another or as close to it as possible.

Menominee Indians Playing Bowl Game
Wisconsin. From Games of
the North American Indians.

Games of Possible European Origin...

  1. *****Bull Roarer, Buzz Saw, Draughts, Fox and Geese, Jackstraws, Nine Men's Morris, Shuttlecock and Battledore, Swing, Tip Cat, Tops, Stilts, and String Games, are all games of possible European Origin played by the natives. Please see our more detailed native area, and our "Our Catalogue" area for descriptions.

Gamboling Games...

Dice Games

  1. *****Dish..... Find six flat stones about 3 cm in diameter. Paint one side black. The other white or leave it natural. Place them in a basket and you have the game Dish. Just make up your own scoring. Counting sticks are available from Faire Tyme.\\\

The Game above and the one below are available from Faire Tyme Toys for resale for museums involved with Native History. Please see "Our Catalogue".

  1. *****Stick Dice. Take three small sticks of squared wood about 20 cm long, 2cm thick, and 5 cm across. Paint one side of each black. Or use sticks with one side round and one flat. Toss them on the floor/ground, and count points. You will see an old time counting used in our detailed area, or make up your own. These dice and counting sticks are available from Faire Tyme Toys.
  2. *****The basket is inverted and held with the left hand touching the ground, while nine small sticks are held in the right hand. The player slips a certain number of these nine sticks under the basket. The opponent guesses at the number (even or odd) of sticks under the basket. Remember that this is EVEN or ODD. Not the actual number. Again, counting sticks are available from Faire Tyme if you wish them.

Hand Games

  1. *****Two people sit side by side on the ground, with a blanket over their knees, and they have some small article, such as two or three brass beads tied together, which they pass from one to another under the blanket; and the other side, which also consists of the same number of persons, has to guess in which hand the article is to be found
  2. *****One person has a small stone or object. He moves his hands and passes from one to the other. The other person must guess which hand he is holding the stone at the end.

Menominee Indians, Wisconsin
Note, Drummer, Counting Sticks,
Moccasins, and pointing sticks.

Moccasin (or Hidden Game) ...

  1. *****Find four coloured glasses or cups that sit tight to the table when sat upside down. Sit them in a row on a table. Have the person guessing turn their back. Place a stone under one cup. Person must guess which one has the stone under it. This game is probably best played with three people guessing.

    The Game above is available from Faire Tyme Toys for resale for museums involved with Native History. Please see "Our Catalogue".

Stick Games

  1. *****Played with a large number of small sticks. Number of sticks MUST be an uneven number. Take the sticks in both hands. Put your hands behind you back, and quickly divide them up so there are some in each hand. Bring your hands out front again showing them to your opponent. He/she must quickly tell which hand has the even number of sticks.\\\

This Games above and the next three below are available from Faire Tyme Toys as part of a "Stick Game Collection" for resale for museums involved with Native History. Please see "Our Catalogue".

  1. *****Played with a large number of small sticks. One marked. Take the sticks in both hands. Put your hands behind your back, and quickly divide them up so there are some in each hand. Bring your hands out front again, showing them to your opponent. He/she must guess which hand has the marked stick.
  2. *****Played with a large number of small sticks. In the original of this game 100 (probably often 101) small sticks are tossed in the air and the player tries to catch them in his hand. If he catches all, then he can try it with one less stick, thus counting down 99, 98, 97, sticks in number each time that he catches them. This game is very difficult obviously but can be modified simply by using a small number of sitcks. (2 or 7 approximately.) The reason 101 sticks would likely often be used is that for the game of "Odd and Even", an uneven number of sticks were used. And 100 seems to be a very common number with counting sticks.
  3. This game is likely too difficult to play today. However, we list it here as it would be good to attempt to demonstrate along with those above. Toss the sticks (often 20 or 40) in the air and catch them. Then, while balancing those you catch still on the back of your hand, toss them into the air again, and catch them, making sure you catch an odd number of sticks. If you catch an odd number then you are a winner.











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