INTRODUCTORY NOTE.--This game was widely known and played among the various

tribes dwelling within the territory now occupied by the United States. In

its passage from one tribe to another the game became modified into several

types, but the fundamental character was not changed, so that all these

types are, in a sense, a unit. The game is very old upon this land; the

articles used in playing it have been found in ancient graves, in the cliff

dwellings of the Southwest and in various ruins scattered over the country.

Among the Pueblo tribes the articles used in types of this game appear

among the paraphernalia on altars prepared for certain ceremonies. From a

study of these ceremonies in connection with the myths of the people it

seems probable that the hoop used in this game represents the shield of the

War God. When the hoop has a netting that fills the center and covers the

edges, the netting simulates the magic web of the Spider Woman, a person

that frequently figures in the myths and stories of different tribes. Her

web generally serves as a protection furnished by her in a conflict.

The netted hoop appears as a decoration upon the interior of pottery bowls

formerly made by the Indians of the Southwest. In some of these bowls the

netting is dotted with spots. Dr. Culin regards this particular design "as

representing the spider web with the dew upon it," and adds: "The 'water

shield' [of one of the Zuni War Gods], from which he shook the torrents,

was suggested, no doubt, by dew on the web." (Ibid., p.425.) To one

unfamiliar with the Indian's habit of mind it may seem strained to connect

the beads of dew on a spider's web with the torrential rain, but to one

familiar with native thought as expressed in myths where the Indian has

dramatized his conceptions of nature and of natural forces and phenomena,

the connection ceases to be strange.

On the Pueblo altars the netted shield is always associated with arrows,

bows or darts. In the various types of this game the arrows, darts, bows,

javelins and lances that are associated with the hoop are interchangeable,

some tribes using one and other tribes another. Under all the varied types

with their different forms as found among scattered and unrelated tribes

the game holds to its original significance, primarily religious in

character, being an appeal for the protection and the perpetuity of life.

Only two articles are required for this game, the hoop and the javelin. In

one type the hoop is covered with a netting more or less closely and

elaborately woven. In all the netted designs it is usually possible to

trace a figure as of a path crossing at right angles in the center of the

space within the hoop and ending at four equidistant points on the edge of

the hoop. This path indicates the path of the Four Winds, which stand with

their life-giving power at the four directions, the North, East, South and

West. In some localities the netting of the hoop is made from the yucca, in

other places corn husks are used. With the closely netted hoop arrows are

apt to be found. Some of these have as the shaft a corn cob with a stick

about eighteen inches long thrust through the cob, sharpened at the lower

end and a tuft of feathers tied to the upper end; this feathered stick is a

prayer-stick such as is offered at a shrine.

In another type of the game the hoop is of stone; the lance is associated

with this kind of hoop.

There are a variety of nettings for the hoop and much diversity in the

style of arrows, darts and javelins used in the game.

The simplest is chosen to be here presented, for the reason that both the

articles used in the game should be made in the camp where it is to be

played. The hoop and javelins were always made by the youths who joined in

the sport, and the making of hoop and javelin was part of the fun.

[Illustration: HOOP AND JAVELIN]

_Properties_.--A hoop and two javelins.

The hoop is made in the following manner: A piece of rope, not of a heavy

kind, about sixteen inches long will give the foundation for a hoop about

four inches in diameter. The two ends should be spliced together so as to

leave the edge of the hoop even. The ring of rope is wound with a strip of

leather or cloth in order to give the hoop such a surface that it can roll

and yet be flexible and light.

The javelin is made of three parts, the shaft and the two barbs. The shaft

is of wood, four feet long, round and smooth. An inch from one end a

section three inches long is cut into both sides of the shaft a quarter of

an inch deep, and the bottom and sides made smooth. The barbs are formed

from two small branches cut from a tree or shrub so as to preserve three

inches of the stem from which the branch forks; the branch is cut so as to

be five inches long and is made flat on the inner side. The stem is made

flat on both sides; a flange is made on the outer side. Several pieces of

leather are cut, a quarter of an inch wide and an inch long; these are

bound for half their length to the inner and flat side of the branch so as

to leave the ends free, which are bent up and stand like teeth along the

barb. The stems of the barbs are now fitted into the sections cut on both

sides of the shaft so that the barbs point backward on each side of the

shaft, and are firmly bound in place on the shaft. About three inches from

the other end of the shaft a band is cut around the shaft but not very

deeply. The two javelins are made as nearly alike as possible in justice to

the players.

_Directions_.--A level course from North to South and from fifty to one

hundred feet long. Four players; two stand at the north end of the course

and two at the south end. The one whose place is toward the East on the

north and the one who stands toward the East on the south end are partners.

Both of these players should wear a red band about the head, as red is the

color of the East. The two players who stand toward the West at the two

ends are partners, and these should wear yellow bands about their heads,

yellow being the color of the West. The opponents in the game, therefore,

stand side by side. Partners cannot help each other in the playing, but

both players count for their side all the points they make.

The javelin is grasped by the middle, the barbed end toward the back, and

the plain rounded end is shot toward the hoop.

The number of points that will constitute the game should be decided upon

before beginning the game. Ten is the usual number among the Indians. Lots

should be drawn as to which of the four players should be the first to

throw the hoop. The one who draws the hoop then takes one of the javelins,

and the player whose place is beside him takes the other javelin.


At a signal, the players with the javelins and the hoop start on a run

along the course; the one with the hoop throws it a little upward with all

his force and both players watch the course of the hoop, having their

javelins ready to hurl at the hoop the instant they think they can reach

it. If the javelin passes through the hoop and stops it so that it falls on

the shaft below the band that was cut thereon, that throw counts two. If

the hoop is caught on one of the barbs, that counts one. If the shaft goes

entirely through the hoop so that it does not fall on the javelin, that

counts nothing. If both javelins catch on the hoop, that is a draw and

neither player can count the point made. If on this run and throwing of the

hoop and javelins neither of the players scores a count, the player at the

other end who is the partner of the one who threw the hoop now takes the

hoop to throw it. He and his opponent who stands beside him now start on a

run; the hoop is thrown and the javelins hurled as before. In this way the

players at the ends of the course alternate in throwing the hoop North or

South, but the right to throw the hoop belongs to the player who makes the

best point. The hoop thus passes from the east or west players according to

the points made.

The game is an athletic sport, and much skill can be developed in the

throwing of the javelins and also in the tossing of the hoop so as to

prevent scoring by the opponent.

If the grounds are large enough, there is nothing to prevent having two

courses and two games going on at the same time.

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