MESSEKUCHE KUNEK (The Handgame)
Kunek (The Hand game) for four or more players: When anthropologist
David Mandelbaum visited the Plains Cree in 1934, the
elders told him this game was taught by the Flathead tribe
to those Cree who took temporary refuge in the United
States after the rebellion of 1885. Since then, it has
evolved as the most popular gambling game among all tribes
playing piece consists of two bones or wooden cylinders.
One is marked with a cord or a ring of bark, the other
is left plain. The object is to find the unmarked piece;
the other is to add confusion to the game.
To further confuse and taunt the opposition, lively songs
are sung by the hiding team. The singers beat an accompanying
rhythm to their songs on a log placed before the team.
stakes included belongings such as a horse or a coat.
Wagers still take place between individuals; the stakes
are always of equal value.; Long ago, if one man bet his
tipi against another man's clothing; they might agree
that the tipi was worth five times as many points as the
clothes, so the man betting the clothing would have to
win five games to win the tipi, while the man wagering
the tipi could win the clothing in one game.
- Four small objects (two marked and two unmarked)
- 11 tally sticks
- A log placed before the players of each team or a hand
drum for each team
- 2 blankets placed over the knees of the players of each
- A 2"x 4" piece of wood, approximately one
foot long. This wood piece is called the "counting
piece" as it holds the tally sticks for each team.
The stick must have 10 holes on either side and one hole
in the middle of each of each end.
This is played between two teams consisting of four to
eight players each. The teams sit facing each other. A
log is placed before each team.
2. The game begins using only one tally stick. The remaining
tallies are placed in the center to one side. Each group
chooses a leader to do the guessing. Taking turns, both
leaders try to guess where the other has hidden the unmarked
piece. When one was right, the successful guesser takes
all four pieces and the one tally stick.
3. The successful guesser chooses two men from his team
to hide the pieces. The leader of the opposing team may
ask someone from his team to do the guessing at any time
during the play. Each hider receives one marked and one
4. The hiding team chant's songs, keeping time by beating
the log. These songs, coupled with body movements, are
to confuse their opponents. Adding to the confusion are
the hand movements behind their backs or under the blanket.
The guessing team watches closely, silently, trying to
detect any clues as to the whereabouts of the unmarked
5. To make a legitimate guess, certain specific hand signals
are used by the guesser. He must also shout "Ho".
Often a guesser will tease the hiders by using a proper
hand signal, but not shouting "Ho'! Which must be
audible to indicate a guess.
6. If the guesser misses both unmarked pieces, the hider
wins two points and another turn. If the guesser is correct
about both unmarked pieces, his team receives both sets
to hide. Should the guesser find only one unmarked piece,
the hiders receive one point and must hide the remaining
set until their opponents guess correctly. The hiding
team can only win one point a turn when they only have
one set to hide. They score only when the guessers are