Hoop and Stick, and Hoop Games

Hidatsa Indians playing Hoop and Pole; Fort Clark, North Dakota
From Maximilian, Prince of Wied.

Hoop and Pole

NOTE - In all hoop and pole games mentioned below if the pole is thrown right through the rolling hoop, the game counts no score. (ref Canadian Museum of Civilization)

In Games of the North American Indians
There were three basic forms of Hoop and Pole. Each had variations.

Netted Hoop and Sticks,
Arapaho Indians, Wyoming
  • The first generally consisted of a small hoop of around 10 inches that had a web inside it. The hoop was rolled, and players tried to send a dart through the web. Where the dart penetrated the web was what dictated the score. Reference Blackfeet, Cheyenne, and Delewares (Ontario) were among those playing this form. Hoops seem to very from 8 to 13 inches but are generally around ten. Again, remember that these very greatly.

It seems that in all such games if the stick went right through the hoop to the other side NO points were counted.

If you own this artwork please contact us
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Playing a Ring Game
Copyright owner unknown.
Absolutely No reproductions allowed
Reproduced here for educational purposes only

  • In this version of hoop and pole, the hoop is propelled forward by one player toward a foot of packed grass or ground about 1/3 meter by 7.5 to 9 meters. (1 foot by 25 to 30 feet). when it reaches a certain distance both players throw their poles after it, overtaking it and throwing it down. After the hoop lands on top of the pole, points are gathered by marks on the hoop and on the poles. Similar games by Apache, Navaho, and Pawnee. Hoops here seem to very in and around all the way from 7 inches to 25, with some even outside of these limits.

San Carlos Apache Indians
Playing Hoop and Pole

In Grass Games and Moon Races the following is described...
Each of the two players holds a stick of the size of a common cane, and five feet long; they endeavor to pass this stick into the hoop whilst it is in motion; if they succeed in this they gain two points; and if the hoop, when it stops, simply rests upon their stick, they gain one by it' the game is three points. This game is a violent exercise because the hoop or stick is always in action. Linda Yamane describes in the book how it is easy to make the three inch hoop and roll it along, but not so easy to throw a five foot pole through it while it rolled.

Also, in Grass Games and Moon Races
Reference Mewuk players used a hoop of California lilac or western chokecherry about one foot in diameter and wrapped with buckskin, and willow poles about five feet long. Some accounts describe hoops thirty inches in diameter made from oak, and poles as long as ten feet. Each player had several poles. One of the players would roll the hoop, and his opponent would throw a pole at it as it approached edge-on. If the thrower succeeded in putting the pole through the hoop, he would get one of the opponent's poles and another try. They played until one player had all the poles.

  • In Games of the North American Indians Alternate Name Rabbit Game. In another version of the game, the hoop is rolled forward, and others try to throw spears or arrows through it. Reference Niska, Siouan, Iroquoin, and Dakota are only a very few of the many who played widely varying versions of this form of Hoop and Stick. Hoops here seem often to be smaller in the 2 to 8 inch range.
    This information was sent to us by a trusted source. He is Eagle, Sub-Chief of the Shawnee Nation URB.
    The hoop game played by the Reference Shawnee was played this way. Hoops made in various sizes from branches were made and tied with sinew to keep their shape. The hoops were rolled along the grass and the children would try to shoot their arrows or throw their spears through the hoops as they rolled along. The smaller hoop and the faster it rolled made the game quiet challenging. Although it is considered a game by the children it taught them valuable skills for hunting and using weapons.

In Culin's book "Games of the North American Indians, he notes that this was one of the most exciting if not THE most exciting North American Native game. As such, no weapons were allowed near when it was played and one possible reason given by natives was that since the game was so exciting there were often large bets and losers could get angry. (This may or may not be the cause though as in the Native culture no one owned anything, so if they lost something in a bet they really lost nothing.) Also, it is noted that no women were allowed near when this game was played. In most forms of the first and third version above, the players stood in two lines facing each other while one person rolled the hoop. . This allowed them to throw or shoot the dart or arrow through the hoop while it rolled. In the middle version, the players stood behind the hoop, allowing them to throw the pole so the hoop landed on it.

*****To Play a Generic Version of Hoop and Pole...

If you wish to play a reasonably generic version of hoop and pole that is not a copy of any one version, but contains the basic concept, 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. When the students find out how very difficult that is, then tell them that the hoop used to be much smaller and the stick would have to stay "Inside" the hoop. If it passed right through there was NO score.
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!

Ring and Pin

*****See our different cup and ball toys in our "Catalogue" area Click Here. Most of these games such as those shown below can be played but many are very difficult for young folk as can be seen from the photos below.

This game is so similar to European Cup and Ball that it may indeed have it's origins in that. We now know for instance that Vikings came to North America, and probably others came long, long before that. This of course forgets that our native friends were already here for thousands of years. And that ships had been seeing North America when blown off course for a long while, but were always afraid to land due to stong superstitions and fears, and stories by Governments, the Catholic Church, etc.

We include this here though as a distinct Native game. Although often referred to as "Ring and Pin", or "Ring and Pole", this is misleading as generally rings were NOT used. More often they were pieces of bone, leather, buckskin, wood, etc.

The following is a description of a Chippewa, (Ontario) version of the game called Pepenggunegun by them. This is recorded by Mr David Boyle in the "Forth Annual Report of the Canadian Institute", page 55, Toronto, 1891. (Reference, Chippewa, Ontario)
"It consists of seven conical bones strung on a leather thong about 8 inches long which has fastened to it at one end a small piece of fur and at the other a hickory pin 3 1/2 inches long. The game was played by catching the pin near the head, swinging the bones upwards, and trying to insert the point of the pin into one of them before they descended. Each bone in said to have possessed a value of it's own: the highest value being placed on the lowest bone, or the one nearest to the hand in playing. This bone has also three holes near the wide end and to insert the pin into any of these entitled the player to an extra number of points."

In Book of AMerican Indian Games" by Paulette and Allan Macfarlan
They mention a game with a half inch stick about 9 inches long with a 20 inch long string tied to it with a hollowed out gourd ring attached to the end. There would be about 4 to 8 gourd rings on the string loosely. Idea is to hold the stick with one end facing up, and swing the rings in the air and catch them with the stick on the way down. This same game it mentions as being played with "smaller and smaller" bone rings to replace the gourd rings.

In very similar games, the object is to simply catch as many bones as possible while keeping the pin horizontal.

Of course counting methods vary to the point of being impossible to record.

HERE you wee a Lenope (Deleware) version of this game. (If the link does not work, PLEASE let me know!) Note the similarity to the Phalangeal version in the photograph to the right.

Little Fire
Society, Zuni
New Mexico

Phalangeal bone game.
Kawchodinne Indians
Fort Good Hope, Mackenzie.

Game of Ajegaung. Central Eskimo
Baffin Island

Skull used in Ajegaung
Labrador Eskimo, Ungava Bay

Bone Game, Central Eskimo
(Aivilirmiut and Kinipetu)
West Coast of Hudson Bay

Hoop Toss

In book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Plains
Drive a 1 inch pole about 5 foot long into the ground. Stand about 15 feet away, and toss a hoop, trying to "drop it over the pole".

On the cover of "Games of the North American Indian" is a picture by W Richard West showing some Indian games. This we believe to be the same game using sticks and standing facing the other direction. (See photo at top of this page.) :
The game as shown is very simple to play. 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. See the photo on the intro page to this area of our web site.

Pine Cone Toss

In book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Northwest, Woodland, Southwest, Plains
Draw a 12 to 18 inch circle on the ground, place a hoop on the ground, or hang a hoop from a branch. Player tries to toss a pine cone into the hoop. If it bounces back out it only counts partial points.

Corn Cob Ring Toss

In book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Southwest, Woodland, Plains
Make a dart from a corn cob. Drill three small holes into the small end of the cob and place large feathers in them. Draw a circle or throw down a wagon wheel hoop and stand back about 20 to 30 feet away. Throw darts into the circle. Darts must stay in the circle to count and Not bounce out.

Corn Cob Ring Toss

In book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Southwest
Each player get a cob of corn with about 1 1/2 inches of stalk left on it. Each player's cob of corn is marked or coloured differently. Players lay on their backs with bare feet, legs touching the ground, side by side with about one pace between them. Each player puts the stalk of his cob between his big and second toe and grips it tightly with the ear of corn pointing away from the sole of the foot. On "Throw" the players use their leg and foot to hurl their cobs as far as possible.

Blanket Ball

In book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference Southwest
Players seated with a 6 foot square blanket suspended tightly above their heads. Players toss "Smooth sticks about 4 inches long and 1 inch wide" underhand and bounce them off the blanket and try to have them bounce off and hit a round basket or bowl about 18 inches in diameter in the middle of the area under the blanket. A ball can also be used but to avoid balls bouncing out a pale or something similar would be needed.

Hoop and Stick like game

In Indian Games and Dances with Native Songs Alice C Fletcher writes
Mentions a game similar to hoop and stick but the hoop is thrown into the air. Otherwise the game is pretty much the same with the small hoop with weaved net, etc.

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