Traditional Indigenous Games
Before colonization, games were played to teach children how to develop a number of important skills to support their communities, and often all ages would participate in the games.
These games would teach children skills such as agility, communication, teamwork, strength, balance, hand-eye coordination, accuracy, strategy, intuition, and patience.
I was first introduced to traditional games 12 years ago when I attended an Educational Support Worker conference. Many of the games I know are results from working with various communities over the last decade, learning from cultural workers and community members from different tribes.
The list of games I have is by no means comprehensive, and there are many variations out there. All of my activities have teachings from the 4 Directions integrated into the games.
Make the stick jump
This is a game for playing outdoors. Players develop hand-eye coordination as they throw handmade balls, bean bags, or rocks at the sticks to knock them over (“make them jump”). This is a game that is helpful for learning to hunt birds or small game. Young players will also be practicing their mental addition skills as they keep track of their points.
Traditionally, this game was played with carved buffalo rib bones and was important in helping Blackfoot children learn to add and count.
Tatanka is the leader of the buffalo. It is a game that is usually played by women and small children; they would mimic their fathers and grandfathers who used to go on the buffalo hunt. The game helped the women and children learn how to lead the buffalo into the compound during the hunt.
It was originally played by only women, and as sign of respect as the communities “life givers”. Men were not allowed to watch the game being played.
This “laughing game” was played during social gatherings, especially during the long dark months when blizzards were common. It also gave an opportunity for the hunters to enhance their animal calling skills and become more successful on hunts.
The Hub Hub was played during social gatherings. Learning about assets of various woods, like willows or pines. Recognizing patterns and keeping counts. (Math teachers find it valuable to teach probability)
This game focuses on building stamina and endurance while working together as a team. Teams push and pull the ball over the line of the opposing team. After a score, the ball goes back to the middle.
Secwepemc Bannock Ball
Young men played this game to build up endurance and strength, without food or water. Traditional it was a rawhide covered ball, now, a medicine ball is used.