Today’s guest post is from Christian Weaver of BGCA’s Native Services Unit.
Indigenous people have always found creative ways to stay active and entertained. Traditional games were great ways to do that as they promoted movement and created a vehicle for communities to come together and fellowship. In some communities, games were played during bitter cold months to prevent depression. In others, games were a non-violent way to settle disputes.
In an effort to help Native Clubs create cultural programs within their Clubs, the Native Services team has created a Cultural Programming Toolbox with resources needed to build sustainable programming. Among some of the amazing resources in the toolbox are a sample of traditional games from Tribes all across the country.
In honor of Native American Heritage Month we’re sharing these games with you. They’re a lot of fun and we encourage you to try them out in your Clubs!
BEAN GAME- Cherokee (Parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia)
Club Area: Any
Two or more players.
Equipment: A shallow basket (paper plate), seven flat sided beans or peach pits marked with paint or marker on one side only.
Play: Object of game is to toss and catch beans flipping then from unmarked side up to marked side up. Before play, decide how many turns each player will take. Players alternate turns, but scores for each turn are totaled.
All 7 beans are placed plain side up on the bottom of the basket. Holding sides of basket, carefully toss beans up and catch them trying to flip beans over to marked side during the toss. Count the number of beans landing marked side up for your score. If any beans fall out of the basket player loses that turn and gets no score.
After all players have taken the designated number of turns add the individual scores. Highest score wins. Tooth picks or corn kernels can be given to children as scoring pieces. Each child can count his markers at the end of the game.
This game is good for young children learning to count.
LAUGHING GAME – Nootka (Olympic Peninsula of Washington state)
Club Area: Any
Any number may play.
Play: Players sit opposite each other in two lines or in pairs. Each tries to make the opponent laugh. First to succeed, wins.
RUNNING GAME – Klamath (Oregon)
Club Area: Gym or Outdoors
Any number may play. This is traditionally a girls’ game, but all can play!.
Play: Players line up behind a starting line. Taking a deep breath, they run as far as they can while yelling loudly. When a player runs out of breath he/she must stop and stand still. The player running the greatest distance before running out of breath wins.
KICKING THE STICK – Pueblo (New Mexico and Arizona)
Club Area: Gym or Outdoors
2 teams of even numbers. This is traditionally a boys’ game, but all can play!
Equipment: 2 sticks, four inches long and one inch in diameter.
Play: Select 2 leaders who then choose players. The players stand in parallel lines behind their leaders. A line is drawn in front of the leaders and place the sticks on this line, one in front of each team.
At a given signal, the leaders run forward and kick the sticks as hard as they can, each one taking the stick in front of his team. The rest of the players follow, getting into the race by taking their turn at kicking the stick whenever they get a chance. The players must not pick up the stick at any time. They must kick them out of any brush or hole that they may get into. Before the race a goal must be decided upon, at which place the players are to turn homeward. The players must all pass this goal before they turn about and go in the other direction. If they fail to pass it, they cannot kick the stick again. The first team to kick its stick back to the starting place is winner.
In the early days, the young men were required to run for many miles every morning to enable them to become fast runners and strong at bearing heat and cold. Kicking the stick is one of the games they used for training. Adults usually ran for several miles out of the village before they started homeward.
For more activities, including other games and traditional recipes to make in your cooking club or healthy lifestyles program, check out the all-new Cultural Program Toolbox on the Native Services page. (Note: You must have access to BGCA.net to access this resource.)
For the rest of the posts in our series for Native American Heritage Month, click here.
Christian is a member of the Shinnecock Nation, and has been with the Movement as a Director of Operational Development since March of this year. In his free time he enjoys playing soccer, painting, building businesses, and volunteering.