Did Native Americans Ever Played Games?

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Did Native Americans Ever Played Games?

The answer is yes.

I’ve been hearing this same question for quite a long time now from both kids and adults interested about the Native American’s way of life. And many are still surprised when they learn that our ancestors actually know how to play games.

Traditional games were part of their ancient traditions and culture. But unlike modern sporting events, ancient games played by Native Americans had many purposes.

They strengthened the body and spirit through exercise as well as brought the community together. They helped instill values such as endurance, fairness and patience, as well as skills that they need in life.

Games were essential to our ancestors, such that, they were participated not only by children but also by adults and youth. Every member of the tribe is actually involved in sports, either as spectator or as an athlete. And it proved to be practical as it helped sharpen their survival skills and reinforce group cooperation. Traditional sports also maintained the warriors’ combat skills and readiness. They helped keep the tribe healthy and fit, and thrive in their harsh environment.

3 Native American games we still see today

As you can see, games were not only a past-time of our ancestors. They are an integral part of their everyday lives. But while Native Americans had a lot of physical and chance games, there are virtually no traditional games that are still being played today. However, there are three modern sporting events that have a close semblance or have originated from traditional Native American games.

  1. Stickball

What we now know as lacrosse actually originated from a Native game, stickball. The forerunner of lacrosse has a very basic rule which is to move the ball down the field using only their sticks. A score is made when you are able to hit the opposing team’s goal posts with the ball. They used a hoop with an inner web-like mesh to catch the ball made of indigenous material. The players also made their own sticks. There were no lacrosse racquets, which now look more like the badminton rackets reviewed at https://peakstriker.com/.

Unlike modern lacrosse, stickball can have up to hundreds of players to a team and with the playing field spanning for miles. Aside from being a physical event, it was also a spiritual event and is thought to heal the sick. Different ceremonials rituals come along with the game – and some of which still remain evident with modern lacrosse.

  1. Chunkey (Hoop and Pole)

Different Native American tribes played unique versions of hoop and pole. In this traditional game, the teams roll along the ground a hoop with inner web-like mesh. The players (usually boys) will then attempt to pierce it using an arrow shot from a bow or a spear. The teams then take turns shooting the hoop. This hoop looks more like a tennis racquet. You can view one here at Peak Striker.com to visualize it.

Every time an arrow or bow hits the hoop, the team gets another chance to shoot. The game ends when one team runs out of spear or bow. This Native game helped sharpen their hunting skills.

The mechanics of Hoop and Pole is still being played today, such as in archery, darts and similar sporting events, as well as, in some children’s games.

  1. Pasuckuakohowog

This Native American game has been played as early as the 17th century and translates to “they gather to play ball with the foot.” It is akin to soccer or football. The Algonquin and Powhatan tribes were among its early players. Their playing field measured about half mile wide and had two goals that were one mile apart. For the ball, they used tightly wound animal hides or leather. Similar with modern soccer, the basic rule was to get the ball to the other team’s goal without using hands and primarily the feet. But unlike modern soccer that is less physical, Pasuckuakohowog is played in a violent and aggressive manner.

This ancient version of soccer was not a very nice sport with some players often retiring with serious injuries or broken bones. It can have up to a thousand players in one game. It can get chaotic and more likely symbolize warfare. However, it was culturally significant as it kept the warriors in shape and ready. There was also a celebratory feast after each game.

From stickball to Pasuckuakohowog, sporting events have played a vital part in the Native American culture!


America Before Europeans