Other Native Games



From Games of the North American Indians
Painting by W Richard West




Games in General

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Boys walked on stilts, played tipcat, and spun homemade tops. Mixed groups of boys and girls played Follow my Leader and Hide and Seak. Battledore and Shuttlecock was a favorite game of old and young in some tribes, as was the game of Quoits. Indian girls were adept at skipping ropes, and both boys and girls played Blind Man's Buff, Tag, and Double Tag games of stealing each other's places and a number of "Ring Around" games. Indian children made Wind Hoops which rolled nicely before a breeze and built bark canoes, dugouts, and rafts which floated well on lakes and streams.

The book goes on to mention races, jumps, hurdle jumping, wrestling, hopping, hand pulling, foot pulling, neck pulling, head pushing, pole pushing, and pulling, mimic warfare, and hunting and warfare games. A dangerous sport was racing directly toward each other in certain foot races. Snowball fights and Snow forts, toboggans, tracking, snow snake were common in winter.

The Buffalo Robe Game

The information on the Buffalo Robe Game was sent to us by a trusted source. He is Eagle, Sub-Chief of the Shawnee Nation URB. At this point we cannot confirm which Native Peoples used or did not use this game besides (Reference), Shawnee. However, there were a number of Buffalo Robe games so it was likely fairly common.

Quote... Buffalo robe game is a Buffalo robe spread out on the ground. The children gather around the outside of the robe. 2 children step on the robe at a time. They push against each other and try to push each other off the robe. The children on the outside of the robe partner with the children on the robe. So each player that is on the robe has a support group on the outside to help keep them on the robe. The winner is the child that pushes the other off the robe. This game teaches team work.

There is another slight version to the Buffalo robe game where people outline the robe on the outside and join hands. They then pull and tug on each other trying to pull the other person onto the robe. Anyone who touches the robe is then out of the game. ...End of Quote

In "Traditional Games of the Lakotas by Raymond A Bucko SJ, Reference, Lakota
He mentions a game that was described by a native called Bull Ring where one child stands on a large buffalo hide, and three others grab the edges holding the child up. They use the hide to toss the child in the air. If he falls (is not standing) when he comes back down, they wrap the hide around the child and drag him around.

In Handbook of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
It mentions that often players would hold such a robe/rug/hide in mid air. Then two players would get onto it. Sometimes it would be a man and a woman and often the woman would win. They would try to shove each other off as above.

The same book mentions a game where players face each other with backs to lines two long paces behind them. Each tries to push his opponent over the line.

Story Telling

In North American Indian Games, Author W H Carter
Story telling. The game of story telling was sometimes mistaken as a council meeting by the early explorer and trapper as this game was played in competition with members of neighboring tribes. The winner of the competition and the best local story was a man of great importance.

Sliding Marbles

In games of the Plains Cree by Pat Atimoyoo Clear an area of snow about five feet long to make a smooth slope. Ice the snow and make 12 small holes at the lower end. Give the holes different scoring values. The players take turns sliding the marbles from the higher end of the slope and score according to the value of the hole into which the marble falls.

Sling Shots

In games of the Plains Cree by Pat Atimoyoo After placing a small stone in a sling the player whirls it around his head and then releases one thong to launch the stone.
The object of the game is to throw rocks with the sling so that they will skip on a river or lake. The winner can be the person whose rock skips the most times or the one who simply makes the longest throw.

Author names a number of games of tag and races. Among them Holding the Pail, and Snatching Places below.

Holding the Pail Game

Children lock hands in a circle chanting "ne-chi-min-an-askikos". Whoever is īt"starts in the center and tries to force his way out of the circle by breaking through. (No going over or under arms.) When he breaks through, everyone chases him until he is tagged. Whoever touches him first becomes "it".

Snatching Places

All the players except one stand in a ring. Each marks his place with a blanket or other object. one player stands in the center of the ring. The others change places constantly. The person in the middle tries to take a place when it's vacant. If he succeeds the person whose place he has taken goes to the middle of the circle.

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

Children's games have remained almost unchanged over the centuries. Then, as now, Indian boys and girls played blindman's buff, tag, follow the leader, prisoner's base, crack the whip, hide and seek. They also amused themselves with their versions of Hopscotch, marbles, and jack straws using whatever materials were on hand: seeds, bones, shells, stones, grasses, wood, feathers, and vegetables.

No two American tribes were exactly alike. Each tribe's culture and way of life was closely linked to the climate and terrain in which the tribe lived. Yet anthropologists and archaeologists have discovered that the sports and games of tribes who lived throughout North America were remarkably similar.

Bowling...

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

A great number of North American tribes held various kinds of bowling tournaments. At one (Reference,) Cherokee mound site in Georgia archaeologists uncovered several twenty foot long bowling alleys constructed of hardened clay. Indians of the Southwest rolled wooden balls at upright corncob targets. The (Reference), Cherokee and their southeastern neighbors pitched stone balls at clay objects shaped like the Indian clubs we use today in tenpins and other bowling games.

The (Reference,) Caddo Indians of Louisiana and Arkansas had another type of bowling contest. They drew a line on the ground with a stick, dividing an area thirty feet wide by seventy feet long into two equal size courts. Six Indian clubs, molded of clay were placed at one end of each court. Each team occupied it's own court and had it's own seed filled deerskin ball about the size of a modern basketball. One team member opened the game by rolling a ball into the competing players'court in an attempt to knock over their clay targets. If one was knocked down, it was left so, and the next player took over. The first team to topple all of their opponents' clubs won the round.

Trap Ball

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

Reference, The Yaqui tribes of Northern Mexico played a game in which each contestant used an entangling device of four balls carved out of wood. The balls were connected by four four-foot-long cords to a main cord of eight feet. When a player threw it accurately, it temporarily but effectively tied up a man's arms or legs.

Trap ball playing areas were approximately one hundred yards wide by two hundred yards long, divided in the center by a taunt cord tied to two posts on each side of the field. Before the game began, the seven players on each team lined up at the furthest end of their respective field. When a watcher gave the starting signal, each player ran toward the center of the field, simultaneously hurling his trap ball at an onrushing opponent. The first competitor to cross the center line without becoming ensnared by a rival's trap ball scored a point for his time. First team to get five points won the contest.

Tossing Contests.

In Sports and Games the American Indians Gave Us, by Alex Whiteny Much to numerous to describe all here. However, many similar ones.

Also, Reference, The Navajo and other tribes of the Southwest competed in a dangerous acrobatic sport. Two braided moose skin thongs were stretched diagonally between four trees, growing thirty feet apart in the shape of a square. The thongs formed an X approximately twenty feet above ground. Where they intersected a small wooden platform was attached. When a player stood on the platform and jumped up and down on it, the cord's elasticity threw him higher, until he was propelled more than ten feet above the platform. The higher he bounced the more difficult it became to keep his balance. The object was to see who could complete the greatest number of jumps before falling to the ground far below. The book also mentions other tribes tossing men into the air when they stood on buffalo robes, and tribe members then tossed them FAR into the air.Reference, Mexican, Northern Washington, and Blackfoot among them.

Stilt racing is also mentioned.

Pole Flying...


Native Pole Flying in Mexico

In Sports and Games the American Indians Gave Us, by Alex Whiteny Reference, The Otami Indians of Mexico practiced a death defying type of acrobatic sport featuring some of the aspects of modern sky diving. Four tribesmen climbed up a seventy foot pole at the top of which was a movable thimble like cylinder in the form of a hollowed out log. The men fastened to ropes wound around and around the cylinder braced their feet against the pole and hurled themselves backward into space. As they did so the ropes began to unwind slowly at first then faster and faster and the four acrobats swung in increasingly wider circles until they landed on the ground. This dizzying sport still survives in remote hamlets northeast of Mexico city.

Horseback tilting

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

Two teams each numbering at least twenty horses and twenty riders rode at full gallop toward each other. Each member wore a colored team identifying headband and carried a three foot pole which was padded at one end. With their bodies low to the horses withers, the riders attempted to unseat their opponents by prodding or pushing them with the padded ends of their poles. Those who were dismounted were out of the game which continued until all the members of one team had been unseated. An exceptionally agile player often managed to avoid an opponent's pole by slipping to the side of his galloping horse and placing his head beneath the animal's neck.

Hawk Fightging

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

Reference, The Cherokee tribes were adept at a certain ccontest in which two braves crouched on the ground and faced each other. Then each brought his knees together under his chin and grasped his legs and arms. the match began when a non player placed a four foot tree limb under each player's knees and over his arms. then they approached each other as best they could. The first man who succeeded in tipping over the other without dislodging his own tree limb was acclaimed the winner.

Breath holding contests.

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

One example. Reference, The Klamath Indians of southern Oregon had a breath holding game. The young men of the tribe ran forward, crying "wo yi" without taking a breath. When each person could no longer do so, he halted. The contestant who could run the farthest won.

Many Variations of Tug of War mentioned.

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

One was that "The (Reference,) Hopi and Apache tribes reversed the usual tug of war procedure and played push of war, a contest in which they tried to shove their opponents backward."

Shuffleboard.

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

They made a rectangle roughly 50 feet by three feet. Scoring areas were 5 inches and ten inches in from the end. Two players each equipped with a four foot long stick and three round flat stones took turns shoving the stones with their sticks toward the scoring areas.

Swimming, Log Rolling, and Canoe Games

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

Swimming, log rolling, and canoe games mentioned as well. Mentions two canoes tied with a five foot rope. The tribesmen in each canoe paddled in opposite directions. The team that pulled the other team past a log anchored in the water won the contest. Other games mentioned as well, from using a pole to dislodge the back paddler, to simple races. One racing via canoe to a pole, and then overturning the canoe, swimming back to return the canoe to the start line. Last was (Reference,) Deleware.

Mentions Īce Shinny. not just in summer.

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

Snowshoe and toboggan racing. Toboggan racing, the forerunner of bobsledding was an indian sport of coasting down chutes which were made by dragging a log down a snowy hillside. The racer steered by shifting his weight or trailing his feet. Another kind of toboggan race was run by two teams, each numbering eight tribesmen, one rider, and seven pullers. Each of the pullers held onto the belt of the parka of the man in front of him. A deeerhide cord held by the rider was then looped around the waist of the last man. The first team to finish the 220 yard course with all racers in position won the contest.

Darts

In Indian games and Crafts by Robert Hofsinde. (Gray-Wolfe)

Drawing a line on the ground some 20 feet from the target each boy in turn stepped up to this line, toed the mark, and hurled his corncob dart at the target. A scorekeeper kept the score on each throw.

Toss Ball

In Indian games and Crafts by Robert Hofsinde. (Gray-Wolfe)

Scratch a straight line in the dirt with a stick. Each player in turn must place himself flat on his back with his shoulders resting on the line. Grasp the loop cord on the ball and swing the arm up and over the head. Throwing the ball as far as possible.

Going on a Hunt

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains
A group of boys would clear a space for a camp near a stream. Then girls would come and make a camp on the space complete with tipis and all household goods. A chosen chief would then say that they must strike camp to go where the hunting was better. Only the girls would break camp, but the boys became the horses, and girls would attach all manner of things to them for them to carry including travois, etc. The book mentions that later, often a native woman would point to a Brave, and say "He was a very bad pony!"

Going on a Hunt

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains, Woodland, Northwest Coast
In this very physical game there is a 50 foot circle drawn. The 5 feet at the edge on opposing sides is the village. Just in from there and 10 foot wide is the "Peace Strip". In the middle 20 feet is the Warpath Territory. Any contestant who braves the foe by entering the Warpath area is open to capture by the members of the opposing band. He may try to escape or a risky attempt can be made by his band to rescue him in the Peace Strip but the instant he is pulled or carried into the rival village he must not attempt to escape nor can he be rescued. Braves of the raiding rescue party can be captured in the enemy's Peace Strip but warriors of the opposing band cannot be captured there as it is their strip. A captured indian can surrender to escape rough handling and is accompanied by one guard to the enemy village and cannot be rescued en route.

Disc Roll

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast
A game of (Reference,) Clatsop youngsters was played in this way. Two short thin sticks were forced into the earth or into a firm sandy beach about 12 inches apart. Directly in the middle of these a hole about 3 inches in diameter and depth was made. A line was marked on the ground directly opposite and 10 feet away from this goal and trap. The contestants rolled round, smooth hardwood disks toward the goal in an endeavor to have each disk roll between the two uprights without being trapped in the hole between them. Each player rolled 3 to 5 discs.

Fishing

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast
A boy throws a rope into a pond of cool clear water. Other boys dive in to catch the end of the rope and the one to get it puts it into his mouth in order to be played with like a fish. "Some fish not only succeeded in giving the fisherman a very hard time in getting them to the surface and close enough to the bank to be considered as landed but even managed either to pull the fisherman into the water or jerk the line from his hand and escape."

Flying Feather

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast, Southwest, Woodland, Plains
Heavily quilled feathers of turkeys, swans, and geese were often used as darts and flew for long distances, especially when aided by a following breeze. They traveled with astonighing accuracy when thrown by a skilled hand, rendered adept through practice. They threw for distance, height, and accuracy, often ending by throwing the feather into a hole in a tree.

Turnabout

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast
Players stand in a straight line or circle about 3 feet apart. They take a series of jumps with no movement of arms and little movement of legs. Jump 1 they jump and turn 1/4 turn. Jump 2 they jump and turn 1/2 turn. Jump three one full turn. Arms must never move when this is done and legs must hardly bend.

Snowboat

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Woodland
Make a toy canoe 16 ines in length leaving a good deal of wood inside for weight. Attach a large feather behind to gain momentum from the wind. Make a track down a hill for the boats to travel in the form of a small narrow trench. Place each boat one at a time in the trench up top, and test them for speed or distance.

Ring in a Ring

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Southwest
One ring measured 3 1/2 inches and one 2 3/4 inches in diameter. (Note - it does not tell if these are inside measurements, but the rings must fit nicely one inside the other!) The big ring was placed on the ground, and the smaller ring tossed toward it from 10 to 20 feet. The small ring must land inside the larger one without touching it, and without bouncing out again.

What do I hold

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast
One girl holds a small object in her hand like a blade of grass, pieces of bone, leaf, pebbles, shells, etc. Other girls ask questions like "Is it round?" "Is it smooth?" "Is it red?" The girl who guesses correctly takes the place of the one who had the object in her hand.

Stop - A Dance Game

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains, Northwest Coast. Lakotah
A drummer beats while dancers dance around in a circle. The instant the drum stops beating they must quit dancing, leaving one foot in the air if required, etc. The drummer might use tricks like changing speed to confuse the dancers into stopping at the wrong time for instance. Those who quit dancing at the wrong time must leave the dance circle.

Big Hurry Pole

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast
Imagine a barrier 46 inches high with and about 16 feet long tied to poles placed 3 feet in the ground. About 28 inches are open under the pole barrier. One team is trying to keep another from getting their men over or under that barrier. It is stated that rivalry with this game was "Intense". No knives, clubs, or lethal weapons were allowed and such involved instant removal from the game. Players must not jump over the pole or stand on it. Otherwise there were pretty much no rules involved.There might be 6 to 12 players on each side.

Circle Break

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast, Woodland
There are two teams of players. One player grasps his fingers of his hands together so that his arms when extended form a circle. Another player puts one hand through that circle and makes the exact same circle with his hands. Then two players latch their hands around the waist of each of these first two players. They try to split the first two apart. If they cannot, then two more players join in to try to split them apart. The first of the first two players to allow his fingers to break loose loses.

Sit Wrestle

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast, Plains
Players sit back to back with arms interlocked at elbows. On "Go", each tries to force his opponent's left shoulder down to the ground on the first and second attempts. On the third they try force opponent's right shoulder to the ground.

Skunk

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Woodland
Caution! This game may be more modern than most here! Place a skunk pelt in the middle of a 20 foot circle. They may be 20 inch long imitations. Two players begin about 8 feet away, and try to wrestle, push, pull their way in most any way possible over to touch the skunk pelt.

Bow (as in the expression bow down)

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Woodland
Players face each other with left foot forward, and right hand on opponent's chest, and left hand behind their head. Each tries to make his opponent's head bow forward.

Foot Pull

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast
Contestants sat face to face in pairs on smooth ground with legs stretched out and slightly apart. One foot of each contestant just touched his opponent's knee. When chief said "Ready" each man seized the ankle of his rival's near leg. On "Pull" each exerted a strong steady pull in an endeavor to pull opponent's feet along the floor until they were in line with his own waist, without slipping forward himself for this would aid his rival. Many owed their defeat to lusty laughter rather than the strength and skill of opponents. This game may have had Eskimo origins with them playing it sitting on ice.

Trapped

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast
Possibly coming from the Eskimo. Two players equal weight kneel on hands and knees with soles of the feet touching. Piece of Rawhide 30 inches by 1 1/2 inches tied together to make a loop fastened around the right foot of each challenger so it covered the ankle. On "Pull" each tried to drag the other backward for a few feet or more. Often best two of three wins.

Copperhead

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Woodland, Plains
A "fang" is constructed before hand of 30 inch pieces of willow tied together and covered with buckskin. Boy playing Copperhead is blindfolded and sits with legs crossed. Two to six other players stand on different sides 12 feet or so away. Positions unknown to snake. On "Attack" players advance one by one as pointed to by chief. They walk on tiptoes or creep but are not allowed to rush the copperhead. Attacker tries to tap the copperhead on the head before being caught with the fang. Copperhead must wait until he really believes he hears an attacker close to him before he "strikes". He can strike only once in one direction before withdrawing fang back to starting position before striking again. He cannot strike in circular motion. If snake catches ALL attackers he may have the option of playing snake again in next round.

Strong Badger

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Woodland, Plains, NorthWest Coast
CAUTION! Highly unsafe game! Contestants kneel on hands and knees on each side of line with head up facing each other. A band of 60 inch by 3 inch webbing joined at the end is put beind the head of each making a circle between then. On command they back up trying to pull the opponent back with them. If a head is lowered it may mean disqualification on the first or second try.

Clatawa

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, NorthWest Coast
A very strong shield was used to play this game about 30 inches long and about 18 inches wide at top and 10 wide at bottom. Each of two contestants stand in the middle of a 30 foot circle with a line exactly through the middle of the circle running between them. On "ready" contestants facing each other grab the shield firmly taking care fingers do not overlap. On "Attack" each tries to force the opponent backward steadily pushing him toward and then over the 30 foot line at edge of the circle. The shield cannot be twisted or used violently in any way.

Spinnning the Plate

Pamunkey Indian Games and Amusements, by Mark K Rowell Reference, Virginia State area. Played in a circle of adults usually, one player spins a plate and names another who must catch it before it stops. If he does not he pays a penalty.

Cut Jackets - a rather violent game.

Pamunkey Indian Games and Amusements, by Mark K Rowell Reference, Virginia State area. Two boys hold each other's hand with one hand and hold a switch or stick in the other hand. They then try to switch each other with their stick until one of them gives up.

Blind Man's Buff.

Pamunkey Indian Games and Amusements, by Mark K Rowell Reference, Virginia State area. Mentions as being played exactly as European game, but no mention if it involves buffeting with pillows, etc. Since that tradition goes back to middle ages it is unlikely that it does.

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