- The games that appealed to the Indian were those of chance, or gambling,
and those where the skill of the hands was important. Among these
are the strenuous ball game of lacrosse, and the game of chunkey
played by the Creek and Choctaw. There were no Indian games that
required deep thought, such as the white man's chess.
usually games were played by grown men
and women, while children amused themselves with top spinning, sham battles,
target shooting, walking on stilts, playing "wolf" or "catcher," and contests
where they tried to see who could hold his breath the longest.
Many games for adults were played during
festivals or on religious occasions. These included guessing games,
shooting the bow and arrow, sliding spears or arrows on the ice or hard
ground, ball games, and horse and foot racing.
The Indian game, which later became known
by the French Canadian name of lacrosse, was played with a small
ball of deerskin stuffed with hair or moss. Each player had a netted
racket with which he could drive or even carry the ball. Two goals
were set up several hundred yards apart and the object was to drive the
ball, without touching it with the hands, under the goal of the opposing
side. Two tribes or two settlements might play against each other
using from eight to several hundred players on each side.
A similar game became known in the South
as "rackets." It was played with one or two bats with a sort of net
on the end. In the West "shinny" was more popular. It was played
with curved sticks and a ball, and was a favorite of women. "Chunkey"
was played by the Creek, with a stone disk and a pole having a crook in
the end. As the disk was rolled ahead, the object was to slide the
pole after it in such a way that the disk would be caught on the crook
of the pole. Each town had its own "chunkey yard."
In all games where the ball was used, the
ball was considered a sacred object, never to be touched with the hand,
since it represented the earth, the sun, or the moon.
"Hunt the button" was a favorite with some
tribes, and was much like "Button, button, who's got the button?"
A form of cat's cradle was popular with the Zuni and navajo. The
bowl game, played with a kind of dice, was popular with women among the
Algonquin, Iroquois, and Sioux. Marked peach or plum stones, or born
"dice" were tossed into a bowl or basket. The hand game, commonly
called "hand," was a guessing game where contestants tried to guess in
which hand one of them held a marked bone. The snow snake game was
played with sticks called "snakes," and the object was to see which contestant
could slide the stick the furthest on the ice or frozen ground.
within this Site
Cradle ][ Chunkey ][ Creek
][ Fort Mackinaw ][ Women