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Article: MESSEKUCHE KUNEK (The Handgame)

Messekuche 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 in Saskatchewan.

The 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.

Traditionally, 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 side.
- 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.

How to play:

1. 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 unmarked piece.
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 piece.
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 wrong.