Games passed from generation to generation – mainly through oral tradition – were played to increase skills of observation and intuition, to help keep physically fit, and to share knowledge. Games were played by the very young, adults, and Elders.
The social values the games teach are still important today:
• honouring the person who gave you the most challenge.
• respecting the rules of the competition.
• respecting your competitors.
• honouring the wager you made before the event.
• having courage, intuition, and skill.
• being humble, even when winning.
Years ago, Indigenous peoples admired those with superior skills in strength, stamina, or dexterity. Traditional games were a way of passing on the knowledge of hunting, tribal customs, spiritual ways, and skills.
Games of intuition and chance are fun and can be played by even young children, and were once key to learning observation, sensing, and intuition skills to increase awareness of surroundings.
Everyone was encouraged to participate in the spirit of the games. Prayers in which players asked for power and reward for their efforts were an important part of the gaming ways. Today, the games are played for fun.
Below are 3 traditional games all ages can play!
Run and Scream
• Each player needs a stick.
• This game is played one person at a time.
• When it’s their turn, contestants stand at the start line.
• Contestants start by sucking in a huge breath of air. They then scream while running forward.
• As soon as they take another breath, they have to mark the spot (with their stick) where they took their second breath.
• The winner is the person who can scream and run the farthest in one breath.
Materials: Make your own stick by cutting a willow branch about ½” thick. Cut the stick about 10” long. Students can decorate their sticks by wrapping them with yarn, attaching feathers, or adding designs with markers.
Sticks in the Fist
• This game is pure intuition and chance.
• It’s played with 10 sticks cut to fit in a fist.
• One stick is marked at the bottom.
• The game of probability encourages players to sense the marked stick and to draw as many unmarked sticks as possible before drawing the marked one.
• One person holds the sticks while the other person pulls the sticks out one at a time. The object of the game is to NOT pull the one that is marked.
• Drawing nine unmarked sticks with the marked as the last draw is the highest honour.
• Playing with the set more than once gives the player a greater chance of using observation instead of sensing to win the game.
Materials: Cut 10 small willow branches about the length of a finger. These sticks can easily be cut with scissors. Peel the bark off the bottom of one stick. It can also be colored with a marker.
Mini Hand Game
• This is a good game to play before teaching Hand Games.
• This game is played with at least 2 people.
• You need three small sticks about 3” long and one small rock.
• You can play the game with drumming music to help practice game moves.
• Use rock, paper, scissors to see who starts the game.
• The winner of rock, paper, scissors (Player 1) starts the game by hiding the rock in a fist behind the back, then puts both closed fists in front. Player 2 tries to guess which hand the rock is in. If the guess is wrong, Player 1 gets a stick. If the guess is right, it’s Player 2’s turn to hide the rock.
• You only win a stick if you’re hiding the rock and the other person guesses wrong.
• If your competitor guesses wrong, you get a stick and you get to hide the rock again.
• If your competitor guesses right, it’s your turn to guess.
• The person who gets all three sticks is the winner.
• You get to keep your sticks, and the sticks can go back and forth until one person gets all three.
• Players play until one person wins all three sticks.