Heritage Site / Ethnography Site / Dakota Nakota Lakota / Recreation

Article: Hohe Games

As described by First Boy - James Larpenteur Long, Fort Peck Assiniboine-Sioux, in The Assiniboine: From Accounts of the Old Ones Told to First Boy (James Larpenteur Long), edited by Michael Stephen Kennedy , University of Oklahoma Press, 1961, p 93-96 (originally published as Land of the Nakoda by the Montana Writer Program in 1942)

Older men played games more for the wager than for amuse-ment. Several men would gather at a lodge to play one of their favorite games. The wagers consisted of clothing, ornaments, weapons, and even horses. Men sometimes lost everything they had taken along for wagers and left with only their clouts. Some of these games lasted for several days and nights.

An old game called the moccasin game was played by two teams. Four moccasins were placed in a row side by side in front of a player, who put a small object inside of one of the moccasins. From the opposite team a representative came for-ward with a short stick in his hand, and tried to guess which moccasin contained the hidden object.

Young men amused themselves at target shooting with blunt arrows. In one game a hoop, laced so that a square hole was formed in the center, was used. This hoop was rolled, the hole forming the target.

In another game, a young man shot an arrow into a bank and left it there as a target. The others in the group then tried their skill in hitting it or putting another near it.

The slide-stick game, still played by boys, was very interest-ing. A group of boys went to the woods and each selected about ten willow sticks cut in three- and four-foot lengths. The bark was stripped off in long lengths and put back on the sticks by wrapping, to form different patterns. When all had wrapped their sticks a fire was kindled and the sticks were passed back and forth through the flames. When the flames had blackened the sticks completely, the wrappings were removed and the pat-terns were then visible. After a day or two, when the sticks were dry, the game was played by throwing them from different positions.

To start the slide-stick game, the small end of a stick was held between the thumb and second finger with the top of the index finger on the end of the stick. There was a space of three inches between the index finger and the second finger and thumb. Each boy threw one stick in a certain direction, aiming at no particu-lar target, but merely to get distance. When each one had thrown a stick, the group walked forward and each player picked up his stick. The owner of the stick that went the farthest won the right to select a position at which he was most skilled and, also, the right to the first play. If the player won, he still had another chance, and led as long as he won at each throw.

Some of the positions from which the sticks were thrown are as follows:

The player extended his left foot in front, toes up and heel firmly placed on the ground. He first touched the butt end of the stick on the ground, then slid it across the left instep with such force that it sprang upward and glided into space. The same play was repeated using the right instep, and then across the tops of both feet, placed with toes crossed.

The game required a great deal of balance to carry out the different positions played. Each boy kept count of the number of times that his sticks fell ahead of the others. As they all had from six to ten sticks each, they chose a stick from their bundle suitable for a certain position. For example, a long stick would be the kind to use for throwing across the instep, a short one for throwing down on smooth hard ground and bouncing off into the air.

Boys also played with mud sticks made from willows. They were from eight to ten feet long and about one inch in diameter at the butt end. The player carried a ball of mud in the crook of his left arm. A small piece of it was rolled into a ball with the palms and stuck on the tip of the stick, which was held in the right hand and swung backward. The arm was brought forward with a quick motion to make the throw. The piece of mud was thrown at objects or over the water for distance throwing. Some-times two groups of boys made war on each other with the mud sticks for w-capons. Young men sometimes even used mud sticks to kill small feathered game.

Tops were made from the tips of buffalo horns and were spun on the ice. Thev were kept in motion by striking them with quick blows from lashes tied to short sticks. The lashes were applied to make the tops spin faster and faster until they hummed. Then they were thrown with the stick handles against a steep bank. The «-inner was t1e one who threw his top the highest.

Women played a game with a large ball which they knocked about with a crooked stick. The ball was first placed between two groups of women of from six to ten players each. One player from each side stood near the ball and, at a given signal, both struck at it with their clubs. Each player tried to knock it toward her side. The side that got the ball took it on toward its goal line, which was about fifty steps from center, with their opponents in hot pursuit. When those carrying the ball were overtaken, there was a lively, noisy skirmish from the striking of club against club.

Before the game started, players collected such articles as trinkets or clothing, usually among themselves, and made up a wager which was divided into two piles. The players on one side had their collection in one pile, and the players on the oppo-site team had theirs in another. At the end of each game, the wagers were settled and new ones put up for the next game. Sometimes the spectators put up the wagers.

An indoor game played by women was the odd-stick game. Forty-one small peeled sticks about twenty-four inches long were used. There were two players. One, with hands behind her back, divided the bundle into two bunches, one in each hand. Then, crossing the two bunches of sticks in front of her, she extended them to the other player, who took her choice. Each player counted the sticks in her bunch and the one who got the even number of sticks won. It was not necessary for the winner to have the greatest number of sticks.

Women usually made an entertainment of this game, which lasted all evening, with a lunch always served. Men were not allowed even to look in. When the game became very entertain-ing, peals of laughter could be heard, much to the discomfiture of the young men, who often waited patiently for their sweet-hearts far into the night.