Winter Games of the Plains Indians


Richard Irving Dodge observed a number of games during winter visits to Indian camps on the Plains.
          When a game of chance was played, men and women crowded into the teepee to watch and wager. Bets might include saddles, war-bonnets of eagle feathers, shields, bows and arrows, moccasins, money, women’s leggings, necklaces and beadwork.
          Three or four players sat on one side of a blanket facing an equal number of players. One player held up a well polished piece of bone, 2-3 inches long and ¼ inch in thickness, for all to see. Then he closed his hand around it. Quickly and skillfully he shifted the bone back and forth between his hands. When an opponent pointed to one of his hands, he had to open that hand. If the bone was in the open hand, the opponent’s side got one point. If the bone was not in that hand, the player’s side got the point. Sides took turns holding the bone. Twenty-one points won the game.
          Dodge reported much “noise, wrangling, bantering, chaffing and blowing but, win or lose, everyone was in good humor.”

From: Our Wild Indians: Thirty-three Years of Personal Experience Among the Red Men of the Great West by Richard Irving Dodge, A.D. Worthington and Company, Hartford, CT, 1882, page 326.


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