Racing and Tag Games



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




Racing

In North American Indian Games by Wm Harry Carter, he writes
Racing was also a popular pastime both winter and summer.

  • Running game - Kiwa Trail

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paullette Macfarlan
It mentions a game played by youngsteres of the (Reference, Northwest and Woodland tribes) played by running as swiftly as possible around various lines or patterns of standing trees. Sometimes one player chased another around these obstacles in a sort of tag game, while at other times the object of the game seemed to be for the players to become as dizzy as possible by circling trees growing close together.

Cross Country Relay In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains, Woodland, and North West Coast
This game is like a relay with Hurdles. Quotes would be too long here so we must do a summary. Imagine a course around 170 feet long more or less. Depending on the number of racers it may have two or more lanes to race on. On the course are obstacles. These are mountains, trees, a stream (4 feet wide), and a river (about 7 feet wide). Racers must circle around the trees. They much jump over the stream and river. They must "leap frog" over the mountains. The mountains are simply one person kneeling down in leap frog position with "bum" toward the racer. Obstacles are placed at approximately equal intervals on the "course". The first runners must take off at the same time down each lane. They jump over the stream. Circle the trees. They leap frog over the mountains. And they then jump over the river. You can make your own rules as to what happens if they do not jump the river successfully. When they get to the end of the course, they turn and return and "tag" the next runner in their group who runs next. First team to get all runners through the course wins. Be sure to have all runners return by turninng in the same direction to avoid collisions. Course length can change according to available space. Stream and river can be marked by rope. Trees and mountains can be a person.

Ball Relay In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains, and North West Coast
This game was played with an inflated animal or sea mammal bladder. Imagine it using a soccer ball though as it will be easier to understand that way. Number of teams can be veried. Each team has same number of players, usually between 4 and 6. Players are in a straight line and spaced out equally. The back player of each team begins when relay begins. Player dribbles the ball forward to second last, and that player in turn dribbles it to the next. Players are not allowed to kick a ball long distances to save time. It MUST be dribbled. If the player dribbles the ball past the player ahead, the dribbler must get the ball and bring it back to the player ahead. First team with ball over the line at the end wins.

Stick Relay In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains, and North West Coast
This game is exactly the same as the game of Ball Relay above except instead of the ball being kicked it is hit with a stick that is approximately two feet long. Stick may be straight or may be curved like a bandy (hockey) stick.

Double Relay In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains, and North West Coast
This game is exactly like the two games of stick and ball relay above combined. The players dribble the ball down until it crosses the end line, and then the ball is brought back to the beginning point by the players using sticks as in stick relay.


LanceHead Game

Lance Head Relay In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains
Imagine three relay teams forming the shape of an old arrow head. One in the middle is the shaft, and one on angle up and one on angle down are the jagged edges. The chief is the point of the arrow head. The chief gives each team a feather. The furthest racer out has the feather. Each team races the same distance. Each team passes the feather from team member to team member until the last passes it to the chief. Last team to pass the feather to the chief wins the match.

Tipi Race In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains
Draw a circle about 44 feet diameter on the ground. Mark a center line to divide it EXACTLY in half. Mark the exact center point of that line, and about 2 feet in from the center point place a marker. Place another marker two feet in from that middle point on the center line on the other side for the other team. Place markers on the edge of the circle dividing the edge of the circle into 6 approximately equal sections. Two of those sections will have the center line drawn above going right through the middle of them. Mark each of these 6 points on the outer edge. You can use more or less points on the outer edge if you have more or fewer racers.

One runner will stand on each marker around the edge. The three racers of one team use the marks on one side of the middle line while the racers of the other team use the marks on the other half. When signaled they will run to the middle and circle around the middle there as closely as possible to their team's middle marker without touching the marker and return to their spot on the edge. The Second and Third runners on each team follow similarly when tagged.

Bear Race


Game of Tipi

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, North West Coast
In this race, the Indian youngsters imitated the loose shuffling gait of a bear while they raced between two points about 60 feet or more apart. ..... When theeeeeee signal was given they instantly placed their hands on the ground and advanced to the finish line as quickly as possible by moving the left hand and right foot forward at the same time, then the right hand and left foot were moved together. This was amusing to watch especially since some of the older players swung their heads from side to side as they walked in a further imitation of a bear. Sometimes older players returned over the same route.

Crab Race In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, North West Coast
"They stood side ways to another line which was drawn on the ground about 40 feet away. On go all of the players dropped quickly onto hands and knees and raced sideways crab fashion to the finish line. The first player to arrive at the finish line who had crawled side ways all of the way was the winner. When bigger children played the leader might tell them to crawl from the starting line to the second line and then without stopping or turning around to crawl right back to the starting line where the race finished."

Frog Race In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, North West Coast
As bear race except racers imitate frog. 40 foot race. On start of race all players squat down, and clasp their fingers around their legs just above the ankles and hop in the position to the finish line. Any player who loosens his hand hold was ruled out of the game. A player was allowed to continue the race if he lost his balance and fell over, as long as he got back onto his feet again without releasing his hands as he got back onto his feet again without releasing his hand hold on his legs.

Menomini Foot Race In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Woodland
Book mentions this race seems like it came out of "Alice in Wonderland". In order that the race might be run in an entirely sportsman like manner and without undue advantage being taken by either contestant the racee started about 75 yards distant from the actual starting line so that both runners (opponents) would, by carefully matching their pace, be sure of reaching the starting point at exactly the same instant. To assure fairness, the two runners carried a straight twig or stick about 15 inches long between them as they ran to the starting line. Thus they could tell instantly if one was leading his opponent and immediately correct such unfair advantage. The twig was dropped as they reached the starting line. They then raced to the finish line 100 to 500 yards away. No trick was too extreme in the race. Tripping, holding, striking, kicking, pushing, shoving, and shouldering.

Foot Race In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Woodland
Imagine a course 150 foot long with a line in the middle making two race courses 75 feet long. The race starts from each end, and ends in the middle causing frequent collisions. "Such races were considered a proof of courage as well as speed, because of the temptation to swerve or reduce speed when close to the finish line rather than face the impact of meeting another runner head on.

Boy beat Girl In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Southwest
Woman and man race. Woman raced while tossing a double ball ahead of her with a long stick around 4 feet in length knobbed at the throwing end, to make picking up the thong or cord of the double ball easy. Man raced the woman while kicking a ball ahead of him. Race usually from 1 to 5 miles which is not far considering the great distances these strong supple skillful players threw a single or a double ball and kicked a foot ball.

Wind Hoops In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, North West Coast "... though he had heard of hoops being used by children of plains and woodland tribes as playthings..." "It was always played the same way with light round wooden hoops which had a few flat thin reeds or pieces of light bark struck on three or four places on the inside of the hoop rim so that they would not interfere with the smooth rolling of the hoop.

Ring Around In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest, Bella Bella. Possibly originating with eskimos
Large numbers of players form two or more circles. Players join hands. Each circle might have as many as 40 players in it. With hands joined the players race to a distant point while keeping circle formation with hands locked without losing any players. Of course many who are running backwards or sideways fall down but that is part of the game. And part of the fun.

Over and Over In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast, Plains, Southwest
Played on a steep, long, smooth, grassy slope. One player stationed at the very top of the steep slope ready to roll down. Another directly in line 50 feet below, another 50 feet below, etc. On "Go", the player on top began to roll down hill, hitting the second player, and setting him in motion while the first turned 90 degrees to stop him from rolling. Second player ran into the third to start him rolling, etc. Players kept their fact toward the oncoming roller to watch what was going on until just before they where "hit" when they turned their face away. Players can play in two lanes about 10 feet apart.

Hop In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast, Plains, Woodland
Make two lines 30 to 60 feet apart. Players simply hop from one line to another. Either on left foot, right foot, or both feet.

Hop Jump In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast, Plains, Woodland
As above but players Hop and then Jump. Lines 40 to 80 feet apart or even further. Jump might be with both feet together or one foot ahead of other as decided before the race. Player who fell hopped back three hops before he started again

Hop Jump - Second Version In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast, Plains, Woodland
As above, but player started with a jump and there were two jumps between hops. Jump, hop, jump, jump, hop, jump, jump, hop, jump etc.

Jump Race In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast, Plains, Woodland
There is a race mentioned in the book where each player jumps right, left, and forward, in this or other sequences. Jumps must be made in exact sequence or racers must take three long cumps toward the starting line. HOWEVER, it is indicated the original game included backward jumps and was changed in the book for safety by removing a backwards jump. We do not know for certain but this MAY originally be that the jump toward the start line was actually done by jumping backward. We caution using this game due to accuracy of this one point.

There and back In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast
there are two parallel lines 40 feet apart. Each team of boys has one boy kneeling facing the line 40 feet away. The other boy is kneeling next to him facing the opposite direction. Their legs are tied together. The boys must work in tandom to get to the 40 foot line and when the forward person can touch it with his fingers he shouts, and they return. Teams are about 4 feet apart. First team to return and touch starting line wins the game.

Bear Cave In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast
This game can be briefly described here but it will be much easier for you to read it in the reference book above
The game involves 4 20 inch hoops that represent bear caves. They must be smooth. Held in place by four strong people equal distance apart around a circle 40 feet in diameter. A marker is placed half way between any two hoops. This is the starting point. Two contestants on hands and knees face the same direction, one on each side of the marker. On "GO" or "Search" both bears crawl as fast as possible toward the first hoop. Should both reach tthe hoop at the same time the fun begins. Each bear should try to shoulder the other one out of the way in order to crawl through the hoop first. Hands and feet must not be used at any time. One a bear has his head inside a hoop his is allowed to crawl through it without further interference from opponent. The other follows as quickly as possible, and then they proceed in same way through each of the other three hooops. First to reach the starting marker wins. Either bear can hassle the other between hoops using the shoulder etc.

Tag Games

Fish Trap In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast. In this game played by Indian boys of all ages, there were anywhere from four to twelve "fishermen" and one to three "fish". Some groups likedto play this fish netting game with only one fish to be netted, since they consideredit more fun. The fishermen joined hands, the fish was given about a 20 foot start, and the game was on. The fish ran and doubled and dodged in an effort to escape being caught in the trap. This was not as difficult as it seems because the individual fishermen could neither touch nor trip a fish. Catch was made only when the two ends of the trap met with the fish inside at wich point the fish gave up without any attempt to break out of or dodge under the net.

Twin Tag In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, North West Coast
Use three inch strips of 50 to 60 inches long cloth to go twice around the ankles of two players so that they are fastened side by side as in a three-legged race. One strip is needed for each two players as not only the Twin It, but each two players are hobbled in the way described. Some players were doubly leg bound being tied together both at the ankle and also just below the knee. The first pair of taggers can volunteer; after that the first pair of players tagged become it, or the same Twin Its can be used until three or four pairs of players have been tagged and then the first pair tagged become It and the game continues.

Breath Hold Tag In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, North West Coast
Mentioned as modern. All players including "It" must keep repeating "Tillikum" over and over again throughout the entire game, dropping out the instant they have to take a breath. When "IT" is forced to droop out the chief halts the game in order to choose a new "IT". Variations - have It hold his breath or have all players except It do so.

Buffalo Corral or Buffalo Hunt In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, North West Coast
This game is too detailed to fully describe here. However, there was a field of about 500 square yards with a coral in the middle of 20 square feet with an opening of 6 or 8 feet. Players would try to round the buffalos into the corral. The buffalo were always fast runners. Herders could not touch buffalo. Buffalo could not touch herders. Herding was done by simply directing the buffalo.

Wolf Chase In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains
5 to 20 players stand on edge of a circle 40 to 100 yards each player about equal spaced from the others. These are the wolves. The deer or rabbit begins to circle the pack of wolves. One wolf takes up the chase and tries to tag the rabbit (to capture him). If that wolf becomes tired he can "howl" while close to another wolf, and he stands in his position and that new wolf takes up the chase. Often the rabbit can make very quick stops or turns to let the wolf go right on by. If this happens, then that wolf is out of the game.

Harpoon Chief In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast
A harpoon type of shaft is thrown at a target stick in the ground 20 feet or more away. There is confusion in the book as to whether the original version used in games was 14 feet or 8 feet in length.


Native Game of Raiders

Raiders In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains, Woodland, Northwest Coast
Best to read the book on this one but the following gives a partial description. Please see drawing.
"The drawing shows clearly the layout of the terrain and the approximate position of the warriors prior to start of "attack" ... . 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 terrain, 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. Should an Indian decide to give up in order to escape rough handling, ..... , he shouts loudly 'I surrender' and is accompanied by one guard to the enemy village and cannot be rescued en route." At end of game band with most prisoners wins.

Coup In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains
One player is the buffalo or deer etc. He got a ten pace head start. He would be a good runner and "dodger". The other players tried to tag him on the hand, but he was always trying to tag them back. Or other players near by.

Mud Sticks

games of the Plains Cree by Pat Atimoyoo Reference, Plains Cree
Players were divided into two teams. One member from each team was chosen to carry a large ball of clay which was to serve as his team's ammunition. As players received their ammunition they would roll small clay balls and stick them on the tip of their sticks. The young boys would pretend to be warriors sneaking about in the bushes trying to avoid the sharp blows of their opponent's clay balls. The stick was usually held in the right hand and was pulled back and sharply released by the left hand.


Touch and Go

Touch and Go In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest
Teams stand in the form of a cross (X) with one team forming one "V" and the other team another. i.e. the 6 or 8 players on one team stand in one right angle of the cross while the other team of the same number of players stands in the other angle. Distance between the inside players (at vertex of the "V" is 6 feet. Distance between team members is 4 feet. One player at the vertex of the V is player 1 and the other players follow out from there as 2, 3, and 4. Then players on the other arm of the "V" count from outer end to inner 5, 6, 7, and 8. When the race begins, player number one runs all around the "V" as shown to replace 8. Then 8 runs to position 1 in the opposite direction, touching player 2 as he goes by. 2 goes to touch player 7, who then returns in opposite direction to touch 3 and so on.

Turtle Keeper In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest
The information on this one is confusing. Here is the exact quote of what we have...
A circle about 30 or 40 feet in diameter is marked on the ground. Five players representing four turtles and one keeper take up spread out positions inside the circle. When a chief shouts "catch" the turtle keeper must try to tag all four turtles as quickly as possible. The Catch is that any turtle is safe who drops to the ground, turns on his back, and raises his arms and legs in air, but he must not remain in that position for longer than the time taken to count to 6 slowly.

Bear Cave

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast
30 foot circle with from 4 to 20 players just outside of it. In the middle, 3 sticks 12 inches long and 1 inch diameter placed in a row 1 foot apart. Ten feet away from these sticks a player stands on a marker or just beside one so that he does not change his place. He holds one end of a strong cord 30 feet long. Other end of cord is attached to the belt of another player who plays the part of the Grizzly Guard anc crouches beside his keeper ready for action. The Grizzly's duty is to touch the others as they try to take the sticks, either before, while, or on their way back from taking them. If he can touch one that person returns the stick to center and is then on out of the game. Game continues until all sticks are taken, or all "Raiders" are tagged.
The keeper cannot touch attackers to tag them but he can tell the Grizzly of attackers and plot with him etc. If an attacker trips on the rope he may be tagged. If a Grizzly pulls the rope loose, he is disqualified.

Medicine Lodge

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains
Medicine man stands in the middle of a 12 foot square. He guards six sticks 10 inches long and 1 1/2 inches diameter. These are laid out separately in a circle around the medicine man pointing outward. Each stick about 2 feet away from him. From four to six contestants surround the lodge. They try to come in to steal the sticks one at a time but are not allowed to rush it all at once. While taking the sticks they can be tagged on the hand. While leaving they can be tagged on any part of the body. However, if three can tag the medicine man at the same time he is taken prisoner and the game ends.

Medicine Drum

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Plains
Set up as above, except instead of three sticks a smalll drum and one drum stick sits in the middle. Medicine man is blindfolded. He tries to tag the three contestants while they try to hit one drum bead on the drum. On attack the raiders try to sneak in silently and beat once on the drum. A player touched is out of the contest. The person in charge may decide which attacker should "Attack" next.

Trophy Snatch

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast
Played in a circle about 40 to 50 feet in diameter. Each player has an arm band of paper or similar, similar to crepe paper. Tied to the arm with about two inches showing.
Each player tries to grab the paper from the arm of his opponent. They stalk, rush, dodge othe players while interfering with them as little as possible. They may not hold, push, nor strike each other though they may spar and use arms as shields. They may crouch, feint, or jump to try to grab opponent's band.

Log Chief

In Book of American Indian Games by Allan and Paulette Macfarlan
Reference, Northwest Coast, Woodland
Opponents stood on a 12 foot by 8 to 12 inch log laying in forest. They were carrying an 18 inch stick 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Two challengers started one from each end of a log so that they met exactly in the middle. Each advanced slowly with stick held in front of him ready to push hard but steady on the stick of his opponent. Each made sure opponent's stick did not catch his fingers. After a few moments one challenger would be forced to back up or would lose his balance, etc.

Fox In The Water

Pamunkey Indian Games and Amusements, by Mark K Rowell Reference, Virginia State area. Involves two bases. One player - The Fox - stands on one. Two or three others stand on the other. The Fox calls out "Fox in the Water" and the other players run to his base while the fox tries to catch them.

Hide and Switch

Pamunkey Indian Games and Amusements, by Mark K Rowell Reference, Virginia State area. All but one of the players stand in an area (the base) while the other player hides a stick (the switch). Then all players race to find the stick. The person who finds it races around trying to tag the others with the stick.


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