Traditional First Nations Games

During Multicultural Day at Aden Bowman, I had the pleasure of watching Tim Eashappie teach a group of grade 10 students how to play four different traditional games from the Plains.  Eashappie also shared the stories surrounding the games.  Tim was presented with tobacco.  (It is protocol that before an elder shares wisdom with you, you share a gift of tobacco with them.)

Tim and I had a chance to speak one-on-one.  He told me how he had brought these games all across the prairies, and how, ultimately, they come from the bison.

Tim was incredibly genuine.  He had a nonchalant attitude that was very welcoming. I think that this helped the students, who were initially somewhat apprehensive, ease into the games.

The first game taught involved Tim rolling wheels across the gym floor while the students tried to hit them with a spear. The students were largely unsuccessful at this, but they appeared to enjoy it.

The second game was one I had heard of before. A circle was formed and every player held a stick. At this point, Tim began flinging beanbags that were stand-ins for bison testicles at the students. You see, when a bison was hunted, those cleaning it would make use of the testicles for playing this game.

The third game was a variant of lacrosse. It is an often-cited “fun fact” that Canada’s national sport is lacrosse. A lesser known fact is that lacrosse is a traditional Indigenous game. This variant was a free-for-all with each player trying to hit a post with a ball.

Finally, we played a game where the player attempts to spin a top with a whip, and then keep the top spinning with the very same whip. This was the one game which I played, and while I managed to become quite adept at getting the top going, keeping it going was another matter entirely.

Traditional games are a great way to bring Indigenous culture to non-Indigenous people. You gain insight into a new culture whilst having fun and getting exercise. For this reason, I think that it is good that they are incorporated into our physical education curriculum.


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