American Indian Games

figure_1_302x313As far back as 750 A.D.,when the Choctaw people living in the central Mississippi valley began to make chunkey stones and create depictions of people playing chunkey,Native americans have played various forms of games both on ground and ice.(1)

Other games included stickball,snowsnake,shinny,double ball,ring and pin,etc.

Skating was another form of sport which was used as a way to travel,dear chase,or for leisure.

10841018_3_lEarly Native American Indian Carved Bone Ice Skate. The carved bone ice skate dates back to 1500-1700 years ago.(2)

Stickball was another game which was played by the Americas as far back as 1100 A.D. When the French arrived in the 1600’s they witnessed these matches and renamed it Lacrosse (meaning “the stick”).(3)

rn-27f23Decked out in their finery, the leaders of the Late Mississippian Period town of Toqua are assembled in front of the civic buildings on the summit of Mound A. On the plaza before them a single-pole stick ball game is in progress.Painting by Greg Harlin depicting a village scene circa A.D. 1450.(4)

In Virginia beginning in the 17th century, as described by Captain James Smith, the Wyandots  were  using a crooked stick to strike a ball. Called Ball playing.(5)

The winter game of Snow Snake.(Ojibwa, Crows, Dakotas [Oglala, Tenton & Yankton], Hidatsa, Sauk & Foxes, Pawnee, Cheyenne, and Cree)snow-snake-1 Snowsnake-1 The “snow-snake” is a long slender, polished wooded stick that ranges from 3-9 feet in length.  It is an ancient game modified from the atlatl.  The head of the snow-snake is tipped with lead and shaped like a bird or snake head.  The goal is to out distance your competitors with your throw of the stick.  There is a notch at the tip which the forefinger is placed and the throw is made under-hand.(6)

Games of chance.


Games of chance can be divided into two types, those involving guessing and those using a type of dice that are thrown to obtain a random score.

Guessing games consisted of either hiding an object or guessing numbers. Games of chance use dice displaying a variety of decorations and made from materials such as bone, walnut shells, peach and plum stones, grains of corn, shell, and pottery disks. Score was usually kept with sticks or twigs.Men and women participated in guessing games and games of chance, however not together.(6)

Shinny:  shinny_game_1952 Shinny was another game played by women in which they would use a bent tree branch as a stick and a ball to knock between posts or over goal lines.

Played in America prior to european contact.(7)

This game was often played on ice with bone skates in the Dakotas. (8)

These are just some accounts of American Indian Games.

(1) A Choctaw sport older than stickball?! – School of Choctaw

(2)     123: Ancient – Native American Indian Bone Ice Skate : Lot

                    Andrew McFarland Davis – 1887

(6) Native American Games – University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

(8)  Hockey’s History, Part 1: The Beginnings (1875 to 1909

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Early Pre 17th Century Ice Hockey Precursors

I have uncovered some interesting info on hockey-related contests predating the 17th century.

Ice Hockey began being played by ancients many years ago…

First off the game Bandy:


”Bandy is a team winter sport played on ice, in which skaters use sticks to direct a ball into the opposing team’s goal.”

”To play bandy, find a large frozen pond or marsh, mark goals with tree branches,and use field hockey sticks and a rubber ball.”

”Players would eventually wear metal ice skates to play bandy,but in the game’s early days

any shoes, boots, or *bone skates sufficed.”

The origins and precursors to this game run deep into the timline of the game of Hockey

When it was recorded in Russian Monasteries in 901Ad.

It was also played during the 12 century in England and France.(1190Ad)

Bandy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sports and Games of the Renaissance – Page 65 – Google Books Result

Encyclopedia of World Sport: From Ancient Times to the Present

David Levinson, ‎Karen Christensen – 1999 – ‎Language Arts & Disciplines



”Lacrosse – Stickball is a team sport in which players pass, catch, and carry a rubber ball, using sticks with a netted pouch at one end. The object of lacrosse is to accumulate points by shooting the ball into the opposing team’s goal.”

” The Creator’s Game was 1st played by the First Nations of North America many centuries ago. It’s origin lost in the antiquity of myth and folklore.”

”Lacrosse played a significant role in the community and religious life of tribes across the continent for many years. Early lacrosse was characterized by deep spiritual involvement, befitting the spirit of combat in which it was undertaken. A match started with a face off during which the players would hold their sticks in the air and shout out to get the Gods’ attention. Games were sometimes played to appeal to the Gods’ for healing or to settle disputes between tribes. Those who took part did so in the role of warriors, with the goal of bringing glory and honor to themselves and their tribes. The game was said to be played “for the Creator”.

”Cherokee stickball is the ancestor of the modern game known as lacrosse.(1100Ad)$_57-1

”To the Cherokee, the game has profound spiritual, political, and social importance.

It is also a lot of fun and continues to be played to this day among the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.”



According to the records skates for skating

were made from Scandinavia out of bone.

circa 3000 BC.

The Native Americans down in New England circa.500(possibly earlier)

were skating on these type of blades.

(usually made out o Elk and Buffalo shoulder-bone,shine-bone,jaw-bone,or rib-bone).



”A game using a crooked stick and a ball has been played on ground and ice since the pre-columbian era when the Haida nation living on the Queen Charlotte Islands and the Eskimo up in Alaska were playing the game.”

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Ice Hockey Begins to Take Shape

originalAs the transformation of Stick and ball games ( previously played on ice without skates) to  stick-ball on ice games with skates started to take place,it’s interesting pointing out  some key dates,places,and people as to when this occurred.

I found *this passage from a diary dated 1612 but referring to 1610-11.

”1610-1611 – “A kynd of exercise they have often amongst them, much like that which boyes call bandy in English, and maye be an auncient game” – The historie of travaile into Virginia Britannia The historie of travaile into a -William Strachey


” A*chronicler of the Virginia Indians, William Strachey, writes in his 1612*Historie of Travel into Virginia Britanica*that Powhatan adults indulged in “a kind of exercise much like that which boys call Bandy in English.” Bandy is an old form of field hockey played on ice. The object of the game, Strachey says, was to drive a ball “between two trees appointed for their goal” by hitting it with a stick.”


”1612 Historie in Journey lacrosse drills for young players in Va Britanica the Powhatan grownups pampered at “a form of practice just like everything children contact Bandy employed in English.” Bandy is definitely an historical type of industry baseball competed around snow. ”


”Powhatan’s favouritewife, Winganuskie, and the Princess Pocahontas had no better home than this in winter. … They played “bandy” with crooked sticks, ” anauncient game,”says Strachey, who indulged abundantly in the parole of literary men.”

”Players would eventually wear metal ice skates to play bandy,but in the game’s early days

any shoes, boots, or *bone skates sufficed.

To play bandy, find a large frozen pond or marsh, mark goals with tree branches,

and use field hockey sticks and a rubber ball.”

The Kiowa were also known to have used rib-bone skates.


The  tribe living in South Dakota used to make Cherrywood Curved sticks and made Buffalo-rib-bone blades to move on in pursuit of some sort of object on ice when living in the bottom of were Mount Rushmore(Black Hills) is Today c.1650-1682.


The Teton-Lakota-Sioux were also playing a form of shinny on ice using buffalo-bone skates  on the Great Plains in South Dakota before time of contact.(1690-1743)

Thirdly are the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia who were known to have tied jaw-bone to there moccasins and play the game in the late 1690’s.

Here are some passages from these games.

” Europeans first recount ice hockey — then called “ricket” — being played by Micmac Indians in Nova Scotia in the late 1600s, who first used a frozen apple as a puck, later changing to pucks carved from cherrywood.”

”The Mi’kmaq played on skates made from sharpened animal bones.Wooden sticks were carved from hornbeam trees.”

”Although hockey has its roots in Irish hurling, the game as we know it was first played by the Mic Mac Indians in Nova Scotia in the late 1600’s and was called ricket by the Native Americans. The game was played using a frozen apple as a puck.”


Sports and Games of the Renaissance – Page 65 – Google Books Result

PDF]timeline – stick and ball games – Society for International Hockey …’s+dakota&source=bl&ots=e-NuQpvvvfli4&sig=9kTJXQFljCS0lpyYa7FpADEhIVs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CC0Q6AEwB2oVChMIh-6jwMKnxwIVC0mSCh0UxgFa

Virginia sports and entertainment law journal – Volume 4 – Page 240

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Ancient Native American Hockey Games


The Lakota Sioux were known to have played shinny on ice with bone skates as early as the 1690’s and before european contact with the South Dakota Sioux in 1743.

Continue reading

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Stick Ball On Ice

Choctaw_lacrosseVarious ‘stickball’ games have been played by Native Americans throughout the continent prior to Europeans arrival . This goes for Southern, Central American and Northern American region. The nature of rules, and equipment varied according to where –and of course- the climate. If you are interested in ice hockey, the Mic Macs are recorded as playing what we would call a pond hockey using bone as their runners, sticks for balance as well as their hitting stick.  Since bone doesn’t perform like metal the balance sticks let them glide more. The blade could have been buffalo or any other large animal such as elk. I know anecdotally from Lakota people that they also did bone skates and played  stick games in winter along river ways. On dry land the ‘hockey’ or ball game was called ‘shinny’ and was played by women and men. In fact many museum collection’s, including ours, have shinny sticks from Southwestern, Plains and Eastern peoples.

indians lacrosse

The information and resources about this topc, Charles Eastman and Sara Wakefield, I have generally date to the 1800s. Both were witnesses to this game as played by the Dakota. Eastman as a Dakota native played it. Walker also discussed the game in his books about the Lakota. He lived with the tribes and interviewed tribal members, who stated that the game was a long-standing tradition. However, he lived with the reservation tribes in the 1900s. As far as I know, none of the earliest reports of the tribes, Jesuit priests (circa 1500s), ever reported the game, but their interaction with the Siouan peoples was limited and many of their accounts are second hand coming from enemy tribes.

This does not eliminate the Sioux as among the earliest players of the game; neither does it confirm that they were one of the first to play the game in the Americas. Now Lacrosse or some variant thereof was documented by early settlers in the East among the Siouan speakers of the coast and I believe some reports indicate that the game could be played on ice.

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Canadian Stick Ball

1749: British military diary explains fusion of shinny and Mikmaq hockey.In the book Halifax: Warden of the North, one of the finest books ever written on Canadian history, the author Thomas H. Raddall, citing a British military diary from 1749, credits the Mi’kmaqs with an early influence on the Canadian game of hockey. He writes:


It is a fact little known in Canada, but a fact none the less, that ice hockey, Canada’s national game, began on the Dartmouth Lakes in the eighteenth century. Here the garrison officers found the Indians playing a primitive form of hurley on ice, adopted and adapted it, and later put the game on skates. When they were transferred to military posts along the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes they took the game with them and for some time afterwards continued to send to the Dartmouth Indians for the necessary sticks.

Saint John: A Sporting Tradition 1785-1985

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Early Hockey Facts

Did you know that the first recorded game

on ”steel skates” was in 1783 New York City?(Collect Pond)

“Nothing can exceed in brilliancy and animation the prospect it presented on a fine winter day, when the icy surface was alive with skaters darting in every direction with the swiftness of the wind, or bearing down in a body of pursuit of the ball driven before them by their hurlies.”

Then later in Philadelphia when

”an ice stick-and-ball game named “hurly”  played on the frozen Schuylkill river as early as 1785.U.S. Naval hero, Stephen Decatur, playing “hurly” 15 years before the town of Windsor, Nova Scotia claims to have invented it.”


(Pictured up above is a painting of Ice Hurley done by John O’Toole in 1833 in Virginia.)

Also in the late 18th century (1786)

“Princeton, however, was more fond of “shinny,” known also as “hawkey” and hurley,” played with a hard ball and sticks having curved ends. The goals consisted of North College and the fence on the south side of the “campus.”

“The diary of 1786 contains several valuable allusions to College sports ” hockey on Stony Brook in winter, shinny, quoits, ‘ ‘ baste ball, ‘ ‘ and *’ prison baste ” on the campus in the spring and summer.”

(painting of shinny on the ice Morristown,NJ circa 1850)

Skating-Pond-At-Morristown,-New-Jersey“In the winter when the weather was cold and the ice firm the student might tuck  his skates under his arm and set out for Stony Brook or the Millstone River. If he were from the north and so at home on the ice, he often joined the other boys in a game played with a ball,  possibly hockey.”


1786, Princeton Library.

The Deke Quarterly – Volume 51, Issue 2 – Page 73

1933 – ‎Snippet view – ‎

p.206-7. Princeton – Forgotten Books

Princeton, 1746-1896 [by] Thomas Jefferson Wertenbaker – Page 194

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