There was diversity in the forms of the games of simple chance as well

as in the athletic games, and besides those which have been already

described, the Indians on the Pacific Coast had a great variety of

games, or forms of the same game, in which, in addition to the element

of chance involved in determining the numbers or positions of certain

sticks or counters, there was also an opportunity for the player who

was manipulating them to deceive by dexterous sleight of hand. The

simplest form in which this is found is guessing in which hand a small

stone or bone is held. It would hardly seem that this artless effort

could be transformed into an amusing and exciting game; yet it has

attracted the attention of all travellers, and scarcely any writer, who

treats of the habits of the Pacific coast Indian, fails to give a full

account of this simple game. Lewis and Clarke, [Footnote: Lewis and

Clarke, Vol. II, 140; and also II, 94.] when writing about the Indians

near the mouth of the Columbia, say: "The games are of two kinds. In

the first, one of the company assumes the office of banker and plays

against the rest. He takes a small stone, about the size of a bean,

which he shifts from one hand to another with great dexterity,

repeating at the same time a song adapted to the game and which serves

to divert the attention of the company, till having agreed on the

stakes, he holds out his hands, and the antagonist wins or loses as he

succeeds or fails at guessing in which hand the stone is. After the

banker has lost his money or whenever he is tired, the stone is

transferred to another, who in turn challenges the rest of the company.

[Footnote: See also, Adventures on the Columbia River, by Ross Cox. p.

158; The Oregon Territory, by John Dunn, p. 93; Four Years in British

Columbia, by Commander R. C. Mayne, p. 273; it was played by the

Comanches in Texas with a bullet, Robert S. Neighbors in Schoolcraft,

Vol. II, p. 134; by the Twanas with one or two bones, Bulletin U. S.

Geol. Survey, Vol. III, No. 1, p. 89, Rev. M. Eels.] In the account

given by George Gibbs [Footnote: Contributions to North American

Ethnology, Vol. I, p. 206.] the count of the game among the tribes of

western Washington and northwestern Oregon, was kept by means of

sticks. Each side took five or ten small sticks, one of which was

passed to the winner on each guess, and the game was ended when the

pile of one side was exhausted. According to him, "The backers of the

party manipulating keep up a constant drumming with sticks on their

paddles which lie before them, singing an incantation to attract good

fortune." Powers describes another form into which the game developed

among the Indians of central California. It is "played with a bit of

wood or a pebble which is shaken in the hand, and then the hand closed

upon it. The opponent guesses which finger (a thumb is a finger with

them) it is under and scores one if he hits, or the other scores if he

misses. They keep tally with eight counters." [Footnote: Contributions

to North American Ethnology, Vol. III, pp. 332-3.]

Schwatka, in his recent exploration of the Yukon found this game among

the Chilkats. It was called _la-hell_. Two bones were used. One was the

king and one the queen. His packers gambled in guessing at the bones

every afternoon and evening after reaching camp. [Footnote: Along

Alaska's Great River. By Frederic Schwatka, p. 71.]

The simplicity of the game was modified by the introduction of similar

articles in each hand, the question to be decided being in which hand

one of them having a specified mark should be found. Kane [Footnote:

Kane's Wanderings, p. 189.] thus describes such a game among the

Chinooks: "Their games are few. The one most generally played amongst

them consists in holding in each hand a small stick, the thickness of a

goose quill, and about an inch and one-half in length, one plain, the

other distinguished by a little thread wound round it, the opposite

party being required to guess in which hand the marked stick is to be

found. A Chinook will play at this simple game for days and nights

together, until he has gambled away everything he possesses, even to

his wife." [Footnote: See also Overland, Vol. IV, p. 163, Powers, H. H.

Bancroft's Native Races, Vol. I n 244 Clay balls are sometimes used,

Ibid, Vol. I, p. 353, The Northwest Coast James G Swan, p. 158, Montana

as it is Granville Stuart, p. 71.]

Among the Utahs this form of the game was common: "A row of players

consisting of five or six or a dozen men is arranged on either side of

the tent facing each other. Before each man is placed a bundle of small

twigs or sticks each six or eight inches in length and pointed at one

end. Every tete-a-tete couple is provided with two cylindrical bone

dice carefully fashioned and highly polished which measure about two

inches in length and half an inch in diameter, one being white and the

other black, or sometimes ornamented with a black band." At the rear,

musicians were seated who during the game beat upon rude drums.

[Footnote: Edwin R Baker in the American Naturalist, June, 1877, Vol.

XI, p. 551.] In this game it will be noticed that the players paired

off and apparently each man played for himself.

Still another element is introduced in another form of the game, which

increases the opportunity afforded the one who manipulates the bones for

dexterity. This form of the game is repeatedly alluded to by Powers.

While relating the habits and customs of the Gualala, whose homes were

near Fort Ross, he describes what he calls the gambling game of "_wi_

and _tep_" and says that one description with slight variations will

answer for nearly all the tribes of central and southern California.

After describing the making up of the pool of stakes, he adds: "They

gamble with four cylinders of bone about two inches long, two of which

are plain, and two marked with rings and strings tied round the middle.

The game is conducted by four old and experienced men, frequently grey

heads, two for each party, squatting on their knees on opposite sides of

the fire. They have before them a quantity of fine dry grass, and with

their hands in rapid and juggling motions before and behind them, they

roll up each piece of bone in a little ball and the opposite party

presently guess in which hand is the marked bone. Generally only one

guesses at a time, which he does with the word '_lep_' (marked one), and

'_wi_' (plain one). If he guesses right for both players, they simply

toss the bones over to him and his partner, and nothing is scored on

either side. If he guesses right for one and wrong for the other, the

one for whom he guessed right is 'out', but his partner rolls up the

bones for another trial, and the guesser forfeits to them one of his

twelve counters. If he guesses wrong for both, they still keep on and he

forfeits two counters. There are only twelve counters and when they have

been all won over to one side or the other, the game is ended.

[Footnote: Powers in Contributions to North American Ethnology, Vol.

III, pp. 90-152; 189-332.] Sometimes the same game was played without

going through the formality of wrapping the pieces in grass, simply

shaking them in the hands as a preliminary for the guessing. [Footnote:

Contributions to North American Ethnology, Vol. III, 332; Alexander

Ross's Adventures, pp. 308, 309.]

A slightly different method prevails among the Indians of Washington

and northwestern Oregon. Ten disks of hard wood, each about the

diameter of a Mexican dollar and somewhat thicker, are used. "One of

these is marked and called the chief. A smooth mat is spread on the

ground, at the ends of which the opposing players are seated, their

friends on either side, who are provided with the requisites for a

noise as in the other case. The party holding the disks has a bundle of

the fibres of the cedar bark, in which he envelops them, and after

rolling them about, tears the bundle into two parts, his opponent

guessing in which bundle the chief lies." [Footnote: Contributions to

North American Ethnology, Gibbs, Vol. I, p. 206.] The same game is

described by Kane, except that the counters, instead of being wrapped

in one bundle which is afterward torn in two, are originally wrapped in

two bundles. [Footnote: Kane's Wanderings, p. 189; Swan's Northwest

Coast, p. 157, Eels in Bulletin U.S.G. Surv., Vol. III, No. 1.]

Still another complication of the guessing game was described by Mayne.

[Footnote: Mayne's British Columbia, p. 275.] Blankets were spread upon

the ground on which sawdust was spread about an inch thick. In this was

placed the counter, a piece of bone or iron about the size of a half a

crown, and one of the players shuffled it about, the others in turn

guessing where it was.

The game of "moccasin" was but a modification of this game. As

described by Philander Prescott three moccasins were used in this game

by the Dacotas. The bone or stick was slipped from one to another of

the moccasins by the manipulators, and the others had to guess in which

moccasin it was to be found. Simple as this description seems, the men

would divide into sides, playing against each other, and accompanying

the game with singing. [Footnote: Schoolcraft, Vol. IV, p. 64;

Domenech, Vol. II, p. 192.]

Among the Zunis, the guessing game was exalted to the nature of a

sacred festival. Frank H. Cushing [Footnote: The Century, Vol. XXVI, p.

37.] gives the following account of its practice. "One morning the two

chief priests of the bow climbed to the top of the houses, and just at

sunrise called out a 'prayer message' from the mount-environed gods.

Eight players went into a _kli-wi-lain_ to fast, and four days

later issued forth, bearing four large wooden tubes, a ball of stone,

and a bundle of thirty-six counting straws. With great ceremony, many

prayers and incantations, the tubes were deposited on two mock

mountains of sand, either side of the 'grand plaza.' A crowd began to

gather. Larger and noisier it grew, until it became a surging,

clamorous, black mass. Gradually two piles of fabrics,--vessels, silver

ornaments, necklaces, embroideries, and symbols representing horses,

cattle and sheep--grow to large proportions. Women gathered on the

roofs around, wildly stretching forth articles for betting, until one

of the presiding priests called out a brief message. The crowd became

silent. A booth was raised, under which two of ho players retired; and

when it was removed the four tubes were standing on the mound of sand.

A song and dance began. One by one three of the four opposing players

were summoned to guess under which tube the ball was hidden. At each

guess the cries of the opposing party became deafening, and the mock

struggles approached the violence of combat. The last guesser found the

ball; and as he victoriously carried the latter and the tubes across to

his own mound, his side scored ten. The process was repeated. The

second guesser found the ball; his side scored fifteen setting the

others back five. The counts, numbered one hundred; but so complicated

were the winnings and losings on both sides, with each guess of either,

that hour after hour the game went on, and night closed in. Fires were

built in the plaza, cigarettes were lighted, but still the game

continued. Noisier and noisier grew the dancers; more and more

insulting and defiant their songs and epithets to the opposing crowd,

until they fairly gnashed their teeth at one another, but no blows. Day

dawned upon the still uncertain contest; nor was it until the sun again

touched the western horizon, that the hoarse, still defiant voices died

away, and the victorious party bore off their mountains of gifts from

the gods." The picturesque description of Cushing brings before our

eyes the guessing game in its highest form of development. Among the

tribes of the East, if it had a home at all, it was practised in such

an inobtrusive way as not to attract the attention of writers who have

described their habits and customs. The nearest approach to it which we

can find is a guessing game described by Hennepin, as follows: "They

take kernels of Indian corn or something of the kind, then they put

some in one hand, and ask how many there are. The one who guesses


Mackenzie [Footnote: Alexander Mackenzie's Voyages in 1789 and 1893

London, 1801, p. 311.] fell in with some Indians near the Pacific coast

who travelled with him a short distance. They carried with them the

implements for gambling. Their game was different from the guessing

games which have been heretofore described. "There were two players and

each had a bundle of about fifty small sticks neatly polished, of the

size of a quill, and five inches long. A certain number of their sticks

had red lines round them and as many of these as one of the players

might find convenient were curiously rolled up in dried grass, and

according to the judgment of his antagonist respecting their number and

marks he lost or won."

The same game was seen at Queen Charlotte Islands by Francis Poole.

[Footnote: Queen Charlotte Island, a narrative etc., p. 25.] He says

there were in this game from "forty to fifty round pins or pieces of

wood, five inches long by one-eighth of an inch thick, painted in black

and blue rings and beautifully polished." These pins were divided into

two heaps under cover of bark fibre and the opposite player guessed odd

or even for one of the piles.

OTHER ATHLETIC GAMES. OUR COOK DOESN'T LIKE PEAS. facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail