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OTHER ATHLETIC GAMES.

Source: Indian Games






In addition to the games of lacrosse, platter or dice, straws and
chunkee, there were other games, some of an athletic nature, some
purely of chance, which observers have described, some of which are
mentioned only in limited areas, while others, like the games above
mentioned, were played by Indians scattered over a wide territory and
apparently having but little in common. Some of these games were but
modified forms of those which have been already described. Such, for
instance, is a game of ball which is described by Lafitau [Footnote:
Lafitau, Vol. II, p. 353.]and by Charlevoix. [Footnote: Charlevoix,
Vol. III, p. 319.] This closely resembled lacrosse in its general
methods of play, but as no rackets were used, it was less dangerous and
less exciting. Goals were erected at each end of the field, separated
by five hundred paces according to Lafitau. The players were divided
into sides. The ball was tossed into the air in the centre of the
field. When it came down the players of each side strove to catch it.
He who was successful ran in the direction of the goal which he wished
to reach. The players of the opposite side pursued him and did what
they could to prevent him from accomplishing his object. When it was
evident that the runner could gain no more ground, he would pass the
ball, if possible, to some player upon the same side and his success in
accomplishing this was dependent largely upon his skill. The game is
probably not so old as lacrosse, for the ball is described as being
larger and softer than the one used in lacrosse, thus indicating that
it belonged to the period when the stuffed deer-skin ball was used in
that game.

Both Dumont and Le Page du Pratz describe this game with this
difference, [Footnote: Dumont, Vol. I, p. 201, LePage, Vol. I, p. 378.]
that the ball, according to their descriptions, was incessantly tossed
in the air. Romans says that this game was played among the women; and
Lafitau, who describes it separately, adds that in this form it was
only played by girls. He also says that the Abenakis indulged in a
similar game, using an inflated bladder for a ball; and that the
Florida Indians fixed a willow cage upon a pole in such a way that it
could revolve and tried to hit it with a ball so as to make it turn
several times. [Footnote: Lafitau. Vol. II, p. 158.]

Joutel in his historical journal describes a curious game as follows:
"Taking a short stick, very smooth and greased that it may be the
harder to hold it fast, one of the elders throws it as far as he can.
The young men run after it, snatch it from each other, and at last, he
who remains possessed of it has the first lot." [Footnote: French's
Historical Collections of Louisiana, Vol. I, p. 188; Sanford's History
of the United States before the Revolution, p. clxxxii.]

Football is found at the north. Ogilby [Footnote: Ogilby, Book II,
Chap. II, p. 156. See also Smith's Narrative, p. 77.] says: "Their
goals are a mile long placed on the sands, which are as even as a
board; their ball is no bigger than a hand ball, which sometimes they
mount in the air with their naked feet, sometimes it is swayed by the
multitude, sometimes also it is two days before they get a goal, then
they mark the ground they win, and begin there the next day. Before
they come to this sport they paint themselves, even as when they go to
war." At the south it was "likewise a favorite manly diversion with
them." [Footnote: Bartram, p. 509.]

Certain forms of ball-play which were neither lacrosse nor chunkee, but
which resembled these games were found in different localities. Such for
instance is the game which Catlin [Footnote: Vol. II, p. 146.] saw
played by the Sioux women. Two balls were connected with a string a foot
and a half long. Each woman was armed with a stick. They were divided
into equal sides. Goals were erected and the play was in some respects
like lacrosse. Stakes were wagered on the game. This game is
also-described by Domenech, [Footnote: Vol. II, p. 196.] who says the
women wore a special costume which left the limbs free and that the game
was "unbecoming and indecent." Powers [Footnote: Contribution to North
American Ethnology, Vol. III, p. 383.] found a game among the Nishinams,
on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, not far from Sacramento,
which in some respects also resembled lacrosse. He says "The '_Ti'-kel_'
is the only really robust and athletic game they use, and is played by a
large company of men and boys. The piece [Footnote: The equivalent in
the game, of the ball in lacrosse.] is made of raw-hide or nowadays of
strong cloth, and is shaped like a small dumb-bell. It is laid in the
centre of a wide, level space of ground, in a furrow, hollowed out a few
inches in depth. Two parallel lines are drawn equidistant from it, a few
paces apart, and along these lines the opposing parties, equal in
strength, range themselves. Each player is equipped with a slight,
strong staff, from four to six feet long. The two champions of the party
take their stations on opposite sides of the piece, which is thrown into
the air, caught on the staff of one of the others, and hurled by him in
the direction of his antagonist's goal. With this send-off there ensues
a wild chase and a hustle, pell-mell, higgledy-piggledy, each party
striving to bowl the piece over the other's goal. These goals are
several hundred yards apart.

In an article in the Overland Monthly, [Footnote: Vol. II, p. 433. See
also Smith's Narrative, p. 77.] A. W. Chase describes a game in vogue
among the Oregon Indians which he says was identical with hockey, as
follows: "Sides being chosen, each endeavors to drive a hard ball of
pine wood around a stake and in different directions; stripped to the
buff, they display great activity and strength, whacking away at each
other's shins, if they are in the way, with a refreshing disregard of
bruises. The squaws assist in the performance by beating drums and
keeping up a monotonous chant." In the first of the two games of "spear
and ring," described by Domenech, [Footnote: Vol. II, pp. 197-8.] the
players are divided into sides. The stone ring, about three inches in
diameter, is fixed upright on the chosen ground, and players two at a
time, one from each side, endeavor to throw their spears through the
ring. The spears are marked along their length with little shields or
bits of leather, and the count is affected by the number of these that
pass through the ring. He also mentions a game [Footnote: He does not
give his authority for this game. He has evidently copied in his book
from other writers, but seldom indicates whether his descriptions are
based upon personal observation or quoted.] among the Natchez in which
the ring was a "huge stone" and the spear a "stick of the shape of a
bat."

If we classify Domenech's first game of "spear and ring" among those
which resemble chunkee, rather than as a form of chunkee itself, we
shall probably be compelled to pursue the same course with Morgan's
game of "javelin" to which we have already alluded. [Footnote: League
of the Iroquois, p. 300.] In this game the players divided into sides.
Each player had an agreed number of javelins. The ring, which was
either a hoop or made solid like a wheel by winding with splints, was
about eight inches in diameter. The players on one side were arranged
in a line and the hoop was rolled before them. They hurled their
javelins. The count of the game was kept by a forfeiture of javelins.
Such as hit the mark were safe, but the javelins which did not hit were
passed to the players of the other side who then had an opportunity to
throw them at the hoop from the same spot. If these players were
successful the javelins were forfeited and laid out of the play. If,
however, they in turn failed the javelins were returned to their
original owners. The hoop was then rolled by the other side and the
process continued until one of the sides had forfeited all their
javelins.





Next: OTHER GAMES OF CHANCE.

Previous: CHUNKEE OR HOOP AND POLE.



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