It was important for the men of the tribes to remain fit and many of their games, such as chunkee, included hard running and endurance. These games included stickball, an early form of lacrosse, in which the ball was caught with a netted ball stick. Other Native American games included foot races, canoe races, tug of war and numerous types of target games.
Native American Life - Native American Games
The life, history and lifestyle of Native American Indians is a varied and fascinating subject. The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Native American Games.
Native American Games Fact Sheet for kids
- Native American Games Fact 1: Games were played to increase strength, speed and agility and to improve balance, observation, dexterity, coordination, tenacity, persistence and team related skills
- Native American Games Fact 2: Games varied according to the locations of the tribes and their lifestyles. The geography and resources of a particular region determined the type of equipment used in the games, and the kind of games and sports that were played.
- Native American Games Fact 3: Achievements and athletic skills were greatly admired and the 'sports stars' of the tribes were given a high status. The best players held a traditional place of honor in the tribal communities.
- Native American Games Fact 4: Men, women and children all enjoyed playing different games and the whole tribe would become spectators at special events. The experienced elders of the tribe would coach the young men. Practise and training for games and sports were part of the daily lives of Native Americans
- Native American Games Fact 5: Team games and contests were highly popular and many tribes had large playing fields in close proximity to their villages
- Native American Games Fact 6: As many as 100 - 1,000 men from opposing teams, villages or different tribes would participate in important games that were played over several days and accompanied by feasting and dancing
- Native American Games Fact 7: Wagers were made on the outcome of adult games and goods were exchanged in the bets for winning and losing
- Native American Games Fact 8: Equipment and targets were made from natural resources. Balls were made using animal skin stuffed with grass or hair, or inflated animal bladders. Other equipment was made using wood, bone, hide, grass, shell and sinew
- Native American Games Fact 9: Lacrosse: Stickball, an early form of lacrosse, was one of the most popular ball games. The above picture by George Catlin depicts ball players from the Sioux and Choctaw tribes. The players hold netted ball-sticks in their hands. It was a rule of the play, that no man should wear moccasins on his feet, or any dress other than his breechclout around his waist, with a bead belt. A ‘tail’ made of white horsehair or quills was attached at the back. A ‘mane’ of horsehair dyed in various colors was allowed on the head or the back of the neck. Team members applied white or black paint to distinguish the sides - refer to the Sauk Tribe for more facts
- Native American Games Fact 10: Lacrosse: The objective of this rapid game was to catch the ball in their netted sticks, and throw it home and between their respective stakes. Desperate attempts were made to secure the ball involving running, leaping, darting, tripping and throwing over the enemy side accompanied by shouting and shrill yelps. There were no strict conduct rules, and the struggles to get the ball often ended in scuffles
- Native American Games Fact 11: The tribes of the Northwest Pacific Coast and those who inhabited Northeast woodlands and the Great Lakes enjoyed canoe races. Their boats were either from Birch bark canoes or Dugout canoes that were made from hollowed-out logs
- Native American Games Fact 12: Canoe races were great spectator sports and designed to hone the skills of the men. Canoe races included highly competitive team races which were based on speed and navigation skills. The individual Birch Bark canoe races, which were lighter that dugout canoes, involved manoeuvring the canoe in the standing position
- Native American Games Fact 13: Counting Coup played an extremely important part in the life of a Great Plains warrior. The above picture depicts American Indians striking the coup post during practise sessions.
- Native American Games Fact 14: Tug-of-war contests were played by both the men of the tribe and the children
- Native American Games Fact 15: Relay races were played in teams passing a willow stick from one participant to another. The two sides raced back and forth until a team went so far ahead that the other team could not catch up. individual running races were another great favorite. Some race tracks stretched for three miles, which were run over three times.
- Native American Games Fact 16: Chunkee was a tough game involving hard running and endurance. Chunkee involved hitting a rolling stone with a throw of the spear. A similar version of the game was played by Plains tribes with a netted wheel and a straight stick
- Native American Games Fact 17: Horse races were exciting, highly competitive events and another great spectator sport. Various races were run to show off the amazing skills of the participants
- Native American Games Fact 18: Double Ball was generally played by young, unmarried women and especially favored by the Hidatsa and Mandan tribes. Two balls, attached to the ends of a string about a foot and half long, were caught using a short stick in each hand, and passed to team members until it was thrown over a goal post
- Native American Games Fact 19: The Pima tribe of the Southwest, Pacific Coast tribes such the Haida and the Arctic Inuit tribe enjoyed Stick-Catching games, similar to juggling, requiring balance and coordination.
- Native American Games Fact 20: Arctic and Subarctic tribes enjoyed snowshoe races and tobogganing. They also played a game called Snowsnakes in which a long wooden stick with a head of a snake was slid along a track made of ice
- Native American Games Fact 21: A game involving a Hoop and the Lance was played increasing the skills and aim of hunters. Targets were erected using posts or old shields for bow and arrow (archery) contests
- Native American Games Fact 22: Ring and Pin was a game played by women and older children and involved tying a pointed stick (pin) to a piece of sinew that was attached at the other end to a ring. The objective of the game was to swing the stick so it went through the ring. This particular game was taken very seriously by the women of the Cheyenne tribe who often wagered high stakes on the outcome.
- Native American Games Fact 23: Children enjoyed races, tug-of-war, tops, hoops, hide and seek, ball games, hand cames and blind man’s bluff. Children imitated their elders in shooting, riding, and "playing house" with dolls
- Native American Games Fact 24: There were numerous gambling games, similar to dice, that were played with marked sticks, carved bones, plum stones etc. which had one side that was decorated and the other side undecorated