Image from Pipe Bag, Minneconjou Lakota ca. 1885

Lakota Electronic Texts

Image from Pipe Bag, Minneconjou Lakota ca. 1885

One Feather, Vivian (editor) 1974 Unit Six: Woskate - A Curriculum Materials Resource Unit. Pine Ridge, SD: Oglala Sioux Culture Center.



A Curriculum Materials Resource Unit
Vivian One Feather, Principal Investigator
Project IH-004
Research Project, 1972, Revised 1974
Oglala Sioux Culture Center
Red Cloud Indian School, Inc.
Pine Ridge, South Dakota 57770

In cooperation with:
Black Hills State College
Spearfish, South Dakota 57783

Vivian One Feather

In consultation with:
Max Blacksmith
Oglala, South Dakota

1. The project presented or reported herein was performed pursuant to a grant from the United States Office of Education, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The opinions expressed herein, however, do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the United States Office of Education and no official endorsement by the United States Office of Education should be inferred.


Introduction 1

Gambling Games for Men 2
Painyankapi - Hoop and Stick Game 2
Hanpapeconpi - Moccasin and Stone Game 4
Hakakute - Hoop and Elk Prongs Game 8
Canwiyowa - Counting Sticks Game 8
Tabkapsicapi - Ball and Club Game 9

Amusement Games for Men 10
Tahuka Cangleska Na Wahukeza - Hoop and Spear Game 10
Hutanacute - Throwing a Rib Game 10
Icaslohe - Throwing a Stick on Ice Game 10
Oglece Kutepi - Arrow Shooting Game 11
Pteheste - Throwing a Buffalo Horn Game 11

Gambling Games for Women 11
Icaslohe econpi - A Bowling Game 11
Tapicapsice - Ball and Clwb Game 12
Cunwiyawa Kansu Kutepi - Rolling Plum Stones Game 12
Tasihaunpi - Catching Deer Bones with a Needle Game 12

Amusement Games for Boys 13
Paslohanpi - Throwing a Stick on Snow Game 13
Makakicunpi - Willow and Mud Fighting Game 13
Anakicitaneconpi - Playing War 14
Maka Sunkawakan Waskate - Playing with Mud 14
Peji Wokeya Kagapi - Playing Grown-Up Men 14
Makanapopa - Shooting Mud Balls Game 14
Magakiciyapi - Catching the Goose Game 15
Ipahotonpi - Making Toy Guns 15
Micapeca Onkiciopi 97 Throwing Grass Spears Game 15
Matokictyapil - Running from the Bear Game 15
Tate Kahwogyapi - Whirling Wood Toy Game 16
Hohuyuhmunpi - Whirling Bones Game 16
Canwacikiyapi Whipping Top Game 16
Peji Yusktta Kutepi. - Shooting a Grass Ball Game 17
Tokakiciyutapi 97 Follow the Leader Game 17
Unhcelapte - Shooting the Cactus Game 17
Taha Kiciyapi - Shooting and Butchering a Deer Game 17
Hosnasnakicun - Hopping on One Foot Game 18

Games Played by Girls 18
Tipi Cikala - Playing House 18 Hokslcala Kagapi - Playing Dolls 18
Paslohanpi - Sliding a Stick on Ice Game 18

Games Played by Both Boys and Girls 18
Ptegleska Wanasapi - Shooting and Butchering a Buffalo Game 19
Hosisipa - Tickling Game 19
Capa Onaskiskita - Running from the Beaver Game 19
Wayaka Kiciyazapi Skatapi - Capturing Prisoners Game 19
Napayuskiskitapi Skatapi - Untangling Game 20
Hinhankaga Skatapi - Owl Scaring Game 20
Kignun Kacicipapi - Underwater Swimming Game 20
Napeoglece Kutepi - Throwing Willow Spear Game 20
Napsiyohli Kutepi - Tossing Rings on a Stick Game 20
Petegakiciinpi - Throwing Burning Wood or Hot Coals Game 20
Sunknaspi - Shooting Arrows at a Bladder 20
Tabubukaga - Monster Game 21
Inahmekiciciyapi - Hide and Seek Game 21
Makapte - Making Clay Buffaloes 21
Kinyekiyapi - Making a Kite 21
Napobyapi - Lighting Firecrackers 21
Okawinhela - Merry-Go-Round Game 21
Okicicuwapi - Tag Game 21
Wanapohyap - Playing with Baloons Game 21
Wakan Skatapi- Playing with String Game 22

Conclusion 22



All people have games and sports. They are a part of a people's way of life, their culture. They are the way people have fun. As games are part of a people's way of life; what is played, when, by whom, and with what, reflect that way of life. Games are not only for fun, they also teach. They teach what people hold dear, their values. Games, especially for children are aimed at teaching values and skills.

Among the Lakota people, there are many games, many ways of having fun. There are games for men only, for women only, for boys only, for girls only, and for boys and girls together. Some of these games are meant to be played at a special season of the year, like winter. Other games can be played all year around. All the games are played with whatever the people have on hand, such as a bow or a plum pit. Most of them, especially the children's games, imitate what people do; such as hunt, or take care of the home. Some games like the men's game, Painyankapi, have stories that explain where they originated from. Some games, such as the men's game Hehaka are connected with certain activities. In this case, the activity is hunting elk. The games of the Lakota people are, thus, not only for fun but also to teach.

Lakota games teach the value of endurance, the power to stick to something even when it demands such strength and causes pain. The games teach the value of risk, of taking a chance, and of gambling when things are not certain. Risk is an important value in Lakota life, even today. People are constantly taking risks for each other. One takes a risk and trusts another person. He may come through, he may not. If he does, further trust is given. This risk, and the building of trust, are basic to relations among the Lakota people.

Games also teach competiveness, the desire to excell. But, that desire is balanced by another value, respect. Games also teach the ability to realize a game is-only a game. No one goes away angry.

For the Lakota children, to learn the above values is very important. Games, besides being fun, teach values. Games also teach boys what men should do, and teach girls what women should do.

Games for the Lakota people, like any people, are important. They are fun, but they also teach values and skills important to children.

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Gambling Games for Men

Many of the games for men are gambling games, of chance and skill.

Painyankapi (Hoop and Stick Game)

Painyankapi is an ancient gambling game played by Lakota men. The people take a great interest in this game and some of the men become very skillful at it. People often travel great distances to gamble on a game between expert players. Painyankapi was sometimes called the buffalo game. It was played to bring success in the buffalo hunt. When it was played for this reason, it was called "shooting the buffalo." The story of the game's beginnings is as follows:

Many years ago, a band of Sioux Indians were trave1ing in the lake country of Minnesota. There was very little game around, and the people were very hungry. One of the young men decided that he would fast for four days on the top of a high hill in full sight of the camp. After he was on the hill for two days and two nights, the people in the camp saw a buffalo coming toward the man on the hill. The buffalo circled him and then it disappeared over the opposite side.

Around noon the young man returned to the camp and sat down on the top of a small hill. His younger brother went out to see him and the young man said to his brother, "I have a message I want you to deliver to my father. Tell my father to place a tipi in the middle of the camp circle. Tell him to scatter sage grass around the inside. Also, he must select four good men to enter the tipi and await me."

The younger brother told his father what had been said. The father believed the young man and did as he had been asked to do. When the tipi was ready and the four good men were inside, the younger brother went to get the young man. The young man came and entered the tipi. He brought out a pipe wrapped in sage grass. Then, he asked for a helper. When a helper came, he told the helper to get a stick. The helper brought the stick, and he told him to peel it. After this was finished, he told the four good men to make a sweat lodge.

Then, the young man and the four good men entered the sweat lodge. After this ceremony was finished, they all returned to the tipi. The young man told them that a buffalo had come to him on the hill and that the buffalo had given him a pipe, some instructions, and a message to deliver to his people. He made incense out of sage grass and then wrapped the pipe. The stem of the pipe was red and the bowl was a black stone.

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The young man ordered his helper to go out and cut an ash sapling and four cherry sticks. He gave each of the four men a cherry stick to peel. He took the ash stick and began to remove the bark. When he was all finished, he bent the ash stick into a hoop and tied the ends together with buckskin strings. He then painted the hoop a red color, and told the four good men to paint their four cherry sticks in the same way.

Then, the young man said, "Now, I shall roll the hoop. It will circle the tipi. You are to watch the tracks made by it. You will see that it leaves buffalo tracks, returns to me and lies down." The young man rolled the hoop, and it circled the tipi and returned to the young man. He said that on the fourth day from that time, there would be many buffaloes. He then wrapped strips of rawhide around the cherry sticks. He tired red cloth around one stick and blue cloth around the other. He put on a buffalo robe and told the men to follow him. They played the hoop game as they walked around. The people of the camp watched them and wherever the hoop rolled, buffalo tracks appeared.

The young man, then said that the next day four buffalo would pass through the camp, but that no one must bother them, nor could the dogs chase them. The next day, the four buffalo came and then disappeared. A sentinal went to the place where the four buffalo had come from, and he watched for the large herd that the young man said would appear. Soon, the large herd was sighted and the people had a great buffalo hunt. In the course of time, all the four good men died. After the death of the last man, the game was played by all the people. It became a great gambling game.

To play Painyankapi, only two things are needed: the hoop, (cangleska); and the sticks (cansakala). The cangleska is made from an ash sapling, which is cut in the spring, when the sap is flowing.

The cangleska is usually about as long as the tallest man, and when it is bent into a hoop, it is a little over two feet in diameter. To bend the branch into a hoop, it is held in the fire until it becomes soft and flexible. Then, it is bent into the form of a hoop. The ends overlap firmly together and are tied with thongs of r3whide. Beginning at the point where the two ends are tied together, four shallow spaces are cut to divide the hoop into four equal parts. Each space is about two inches long and about one-half inch wide. These spaces are marked with paint as they determine the scoring of points during the game.

The cansakala are made of ash or choke-cherry wood. Each of them is about three and one-half to four feet long. One end is flattened or squared for about ten inches. They are wrapped with rawhide or buckskin thongs from the beginning of the flattened part to within about ten inches of the other end. Two sticks are fastened to each other about one-third of the way from the rounded ends by an eight inch rawhide thong. Each pair of sticks had a small flag, blue or black on one part, and red or yellow on the other.

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To play the game, two players take turns rolling the hoop. When it is rolled, both of the players follow it. Just as it is about to tip and fall over, both of the players throw their sticks so that the hoop will land on the sticks when it falls.

Scoring is determined by how many of the spaces on the hoop fall on the sticks. One marked space lying over one stick counts one point. One space lying over two sticks count two points. Two spaces lying over one stick counts two. Two spaces lying over two sticks counts two. Three spaces lying over two sticks counts three. Four spaces lying over two sticks is the game.

Hanpapeconpi (Moccasin and Stone Game)

This game is a guessing game. It was taught by Iktomi to the Four Brothers as they were establishing the four directions. The brothers had been sent on their trail around the world to establish the four directions by Wazi, the wizard. In the course of their travels, Yata (the north wind) and Eya (the west wind) continually quarreled over the birth right and leadership of the four brothers. They quarreled, too, over the length of the journey. When Iktomi came to them, they were weary and cold.

Each night Okaga (the south wind) made a great fire, and the brothers sat around it. One night there came an old man with his face covered. Eya told him to sit by the fire, and asked where he came from and where he was going.

"I know that you are weary," said the old man. "I cannot travel on this trail with you. I come at night to amuse you so that you may forget your weariness." He sat beside the fire, and Okaga gave him part of his morsel of food to eat. When he smelled and tasted it, he said "This is the food that the spirits feast upon, and they give it only to those they love.

The brothers remembered that Wazi had also said this about the food of Okaga, and also that he could not travel on the trail with them. So, they agreed that this old man was Wazi.

When the old man had eaten, he asked each of the brothers to lend him a woccasin. He placed the moccasins side by side. He showed them one white and three black pebbles. He juggled the pebbles in his hand and quickly slipped one underneath the moccasin.

Then, he asked Eya to juggle the pebbles and slip one underneath the moccasin. The old man guessed which one--white or black--Eya had slipped under the moccasin. He guessed wrong. Eya then juggled and the old man again guessed wrong. Then Yanpa juggled, and the old man now guessed right. Okapa took a turn and juggled, and the old man guessed wrong, Thus, they played this game far into the night, and the brothers forgot their weariness. Before it was morning, the old man said that if they would stay at this camp, he would come again the next night and teach them more about the game. Then, he left them.

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The next day, the brothers stayed in that camp, and when it was night, the old man came, bringing four bundles of wands with four wands in each bundle. He gave these to the four brothers. He also brought a large bundle with four times four wands in it, which he kept. He taught them how to gamble wand against wand. They played the game, wand against wand. They played far into the night and the brothers won all the wands. Again, the old man asked them to stay at that camp so that he might come and teach them more about the game. Before it was morning he left them. The brothers stayed the next day and played the game with each other. When it was night, they waited for the old man, but he didn't come. The fourth day they waited and played. Yata juggled only black pebbles and won the wands from his brothers.

When it was evening, Okaga made a huge fire. He left his flint and tinder exposed on the ground beside the fire. When it was nighttime, the old man came and all played.

Only Yata and the old man juggled the pebbles, but Yata won all the wands, because he slyly juggled only black pebbles.

As they sat beside the fire, the old man spoke privately to Yata, saying, "You are the first-born son and should lead the brothers."

Thinking the old man was Wazi, Yata said, "You have given my birthright to Eya and he leads."

"What would you risk to regain your birthright?" asked the old man.

"Anything and everything," replied Yata.

"I will play you three times. You may juggle twice and I will juggle once. He who wins twice will win our bet. I will bet your birthright," said the old man. "What must I bet?" asked Yata.

"You must bet that flint and tinder lying beside the fire," the old man said.

Yata slyly took the flint and tinder, and he and the old man went away to gamble.

He juggled, and placed only black pebbles under the moccasins. The old man lifted a moccasin and lost. The old man then juggled, and he placed the last pebble under the fourth moccasin. Yata saw that it was white. He watched the face of the old man closely and pretended to lift the first moccasin. The old man appeared pleased. Yata pretended to lift the second moccasin and still the old man appeared pleased. The same with the third moccasin. Yata then approached the fourth moccasin and the old man appeared anxious, so Yata quickly lifted the third moccasin. There was a black pebble under it, and the old man won this game.

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"You have won a game, and I have won a game. Now I have one chance and you have three chances to win the next game. When people talk about Yata, they will tell how he gambled with me. Having your birthright will give you power to command your brother, Eya. Then you may have revenge for what he has done to you."

Yata juggled and placed only black pebbles under the moccasins, and said, "I should bet more on this game."

"I would like to help you get even for the wrong that has been done to you. I will bet my power as a god against the girl whom you desire," said the old man.

"Agreed, and I would bet even more," said Yata.

"I will bet bet my services to you against your seat with the spirits," said the old man.

"Agreed," said Yata.

"You watched my face to learn when your hand approached the white pebble, and now I shall watch your face," said the old man.

Yata looked away from the moccasins. The old man pretended to lift each one, slipping his fingers under each as he did so.

"You give me no chance, and I will take no chance. I will close my eyes and turn around once and lift the moccasin my hand touches first said the old man.

He did this, and Yata watched him closely. He lifted the first moccasin, and a white pebble was under it. Yata stared in astonishment, and then he lifted each of the other moccasins. There was a white pebble under each of them. Yata said, "You have cheated me. These pebbles are all white."

"You should know that I have cheated, for you put no white pebbles under a moccasin. I should have taught you that the rules of the games are, that if a player cheats, he should be cheated. I have played according to the rules, and you cannot complain," said the old man. Then, Yata wept as a child weeps, and the old man laughed in riducule.

When morning came, it was cold. Okaga wished to make a fire, but he could not find his, flint and tinder. Then, the old man laughed loud and long. He uncovered his face and said, "Your father warned you to beware, of Iktomi. I am Iktomi, and I have made you ridiculous.

Forever it shall be told that while you were doing the work of the gods, you neglected your work to gamble on a game of chance. Eya, your leader, permitted this to happen, and even took part in it. Yata cheated and stole from his own brothers. He gambled away both that which was not

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his and that which he most desired. Okaga, the prudent Okaga, even for-. got his duty and lost that which was for your comfort. Everyone will laugh at you. Where you go, there will be neither flint nor tinder, and each day while you suffer as you do not have a fire, I shall laugh at you.

The four brothers hung their heads in shame, and Iktomi mocked and taunted them until Ikaga made music with his flute. The music was very sad and Iktomi fled from it because he hated music.

That day, the brothers journeyed on the trail, and when it was evening, they were discouraged and cold. Then, Eya prayed to Wakinyan and said, "Oh, Wakinyan, we are comfortable and wish no aid from you. The glance of your eye is cold and weak as fire. We scorn you, and if you offer aid to us, we will not receive it."

The other brothers stared at Eya as if he were crazy because they didn't know what was pleasing to Wakinyan. All bowed and a small voice said, "This is the will of the gods: Because, for four days you have neglected your work, for four times four days each day you must travel a day's journey and a fourth of another day's journey in order to correct the fourth time. You neglected your work for the spirits to gamble on chance, therefore when you are a spirit you shall be so mysterious that no one can tell where you come from, where you go, and how you go. Okaga, by his neglect, lost the means of making a fire. Therefore, when he leaves his father's lodge for the last time, he shall never again make a fire."

"Because Yata gambled away that which was not his own, he shall have no seat with the spirits, the woman's work shall never be done in his tipi, and he shall always be cold. Eya permitted the gambling which caused the delay. Therefore, when he is a god, he shall never lead in anything and shall do nothing wisely. Because of his scheming, Iktomi has made the four brothers ridiculous and interfered with the will of the gods, he shall forever fear fire and the smoke of fire.

"This is the message of Wakinyan: A dry stick moved swiftly against dry wood will make a fire.

This js the. story of how the guessing game originated. It is a very old story. Iktonii. fooled everyone and set up gambling bets and rules as he wished them to be done.

In the game of Hapapeconpi, one of the players conceals a small bit of horn under one of two, three, or four moccasins. The other player has to guess under which moccasin the small bit of horn is hidden. Each player his own stick, but the one who is guessing uses both of them. Re uses the other player's stick to push a moccasin away, and this means that the object is not hidden under that one.

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Hapapeconpi is a game of great psychological skill. The guesser watches the face of the other player very carefully as he moves the stick from one moccasin to another. He hopes to see a smile or a frown on the face of his opponent. This will tell him if the bit of horn is under the moccasin or not. Of course, the other player is aware of this. Sometimes he will try to outsmart the guesser by frowning when the guesser is near the empty moccasin and smiling when he is near the moccasin with the bit of horn under tt.

Hakakute (Hoop and Elk Prongs Game)

Hakakute, another gambling game for men, is played before hunting for elk. It is played to bring good luck in the hunt.

Only two objects are used in this game: haka (the elk prong) and cangleska (the hoop). The haka is made of a round rod of wood about four feet long and three-fourths of an inch in diameter. One end is squared or flattened. A small rod of wood about eighteen inches long is fastened to the round end. It is bent in a half circle and held in position by a string of twisted sinew or leather. About eighteen inches from that, two other sticks are fastened, just like the other two. Then, the rod is wrapped with buckskin or rawhide thongs.

The hoop cangleska is made of buckskin or rawhide and is wrapped with a thong of rawhide.

To play the game, one of the two players throws the hoop up in the air. As it begins to come down, the players try to catch it on the haka. It must be caught before it touches the ground, and then laid on the ground. If it is caught, the other player may take away the hoop from the hehaka of the one who caught it, before it is laid on the ground. After the haka is laid on the ground, no one can touch the hoop.

A special hair ornament is given as a reward for victory in this game. This ornament is a very small gaming hoop or wheel, as small as the maker can make it. It has "spokes " like a wheel, ornamented with porcupine quills, It is tied to a small lock of hair on one side of the crown of the head by ~ buckskin string fastened to the center of the ornament.

Canwiyowa (Counting Sticks Game)

This is an ancient gambling game played by Lakota men during winter nights. It is also played by children and sometimes by women. All that is needed is a good number of canwiyowa (counting sticks). These are generally made of green sticks, for they are not easily broken by handling. There has to be an odd number of sticks, usually ninety-nine. They may be

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plain, but many times they are colored. When the game is about to begin, one of the two players picks up the pile of sticks and mixes them as well as he can. Then, he divides them into two piles.

Then, the other player has to choose which of the two piles has the odd stick. If the pile that he picks has the odd stick in it, he wins. If it doesn't, he loses.

Tabkapsicapi (Ball and Club Game)

This is an ancient gambling game played by men and is their roughest and most athletic game. The game can result in serious wounds and broken bones, but seldom quarrels. It can be played by a few or by hundreds. Generally, it is played for a wager, which can be quite large. In the old days, one camp would often challenge the other, and the contest would turn into days of playing, feasting, and having a good time.

Only two items are needed in the game of tapicapsice: a club, and tapa, a ball. The club is made of an ash or chokecherry sapling taken in the spring when the sap is running and heated in the fire until it is pliable. The lower end is bent until it stands at right angles to the rest of the stick or into a semicircular crook about six inches across. The shape of the crook varies according to the maker. After the crook is made, the thickness of the stock is trimmed to about one and one-half inches and its length is such that the player can strike it on the ground while standing erect. Anyone can make a club. There are, however, certain craftsmen and the clubs they make will have special powers.

The tapa, or ball, is made by winding some material into a ball,. and covering It with buckskin or rawhide. It is from two and a half to three indies in diameter. The game is played where two goals can be set up with a level track between them. The sides must be equal, although any number The goals can be stakes or the wall of a tipi. The goals can be three hundred yards to a mile apart. At the beginning of p lay, the ball is placed on the ground halfway between the two goals. It can also be tossed in the air. During the game, the ball cannot be touched by hand or foot. The object of the game is to put the ball across the goal of the opposing team. The first team to do so wins the game.

This game is also called Lacrosse by the French people. Lacrosse was learned from the Indians and has become a great game among all the French people. It is still played by Indians in North Carolina. The Cherokee tribe holds an annual Lacrosse game between two groups of men. There are many bets placed on the outcome of this game. It is played wearing just a breechcloth and lasts many hours.

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Amusement Games for Men

Besides gambling games, Lakota men played games of skill and endurance.

Tahuka Cangliska Na Wahukeza (Hoop and Spear Game)

This is a game played by men in the spring. It is a very exciting game, and the people gather In great numbers to watch it. A tahuka cangleska (webbed hoop) and wahukeza (spear) are needed for the game. The tahuka cangleska is made of ash wood which is bent into a hoop. A web of rawhide is woven across the entire hoop. But there is a small hole left in the middle called the "heart". The wahukeza is often made of a young willow, about four or five feet long. The smaller end is often forked and is sometimes ornamented with various feathers, bead-work, or something decorative.

Two sides are chosen, and there can be as many players on each side as desired. Often, the members of one tiospaye will play against another tiospaye. The hoop is thrown by one of the players towards those on the other side. As the hoop comes at them, they throw their spears at it. If the hoop is speared through the heart while it is still in the air, then the count is five. If it is speared through the heart while rolling on the ground, the count is three. If it is speared through one of the openings, the count is one. Nothing else counts. At the end, the side with the most points wins.

Hutanacute (Throwing a Rib same)

This is a game played by Lakota men in the winter on snow or ice. It is also sometimes played by boys. All that is needed to play this game is a winged bone. It is made from the rib of a large animal. At the wider end, two holds are drilled in the bone. Into these holes two rods are stuck. Each rod is around fourteen inches long. The smaller end of the rods are made to look like feathers.

To play the game, the p layers fix a mark. Then, they throw the winged ribs so that It will glide across the ice or snow. They take turns throwing them until every player has thrown his. The player who has thrown the farthest wins the game.

Icaslohe (Throwing a Stick on Ice Game)

Icaslolte is another game played by Lakota men in the winter on snow or ice. Each player has a canpaslohanpi or throwing stick. It is made of ash and is about four feet long. One tide is rounded, and the

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other is flat. The stick is held at the smaller end, between the thumb and the second, third, and fourth fingers. The first finger is across the small end, and the flat side of the stick is held upward. By swinging the hand below the hips, the stick is shot forward so that it will slide on the snow or ice. The game is to see who can slide their stick the farthest.

Oglece Kutepi (Arrow Shooting)

This is a game of skill played by Lakota men. The necessary articles are an ogle (coat) and a itazipa (bow) with wahinkpe (arrows). This is a special arrow that is either painted black, or wrapped with a black strip of buckskin, or has a tag on it. The game is played by shooting the ogle high into the air so that it will fly about fifty to seventy-five yards away. The players stand at the spot where it was shot from and shoot at it with bow and arrows.

Pteheste (Throwing a Buffalo Horn Game)

This is a game played by young men and sometimes boys. The only item needed is a pteheste (cow horn), This is made from the tip of a buffalo or cow horn. It is usually about three or four inches long. The men trim it down until it is very straight. They, then, put plum tree twigs into the end of the horn or fasten a feather-tipped arrow into the base of the horn. It is then thrown along the surface of the ice. The player who throws his the farthest wins the game.

Gambling Games for Women

Lakota women have their own games. They gamble at times in their games, and they also have games of skill and chance.

Icasloheconpi (A Bowling Game) Icasloheconpi, is a gambling game played by Lakota women. All that is needed i:s: Tapainyan (stone ball) and canpaksa (a stump). The stones can be any kind of stone, and the stump can be made from any kind of wood. Usually the game is played on ice, but it can also be played on the ground. There are two players and two lines are drawn the ice about ten to thirty feet apart. Each woman takes her position behind one of the lines. The object of the game is to bowl the tapajnyan so that it will knock the opposite canpaksa away from the line.

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Tapicapsice (Ball and Club Game)

This is another gambling game played by women. The equipment and the rules for it are the same as in the men's version of Lacrosse. The only difference is that the women's games are much milder and not as rough.

Cunwiyawa Kansukutepi (Rolling Plum Stones Game)

This is a game played by older Lakota women. It is a very absorbing game, and some of the women play all day and all night. There are three objects necessary for this game: tanpa (basket), kansu (plum stones), and canwiyowa (counting sticks). The tanpa is made of willow twigs and woven into a basket about three inches in diameter at the bottom. It gets wider near the top.

The kansu are made of plumstones. One side of each stone is left plain. The other side is carved with some figures or with straight marks. These carvings can be a spider, a turtle, a face, a thunder-hawk, a bear track, and so on. There are six stones in each set, but not all of them have carvings on one side. Some are plain on both sides.

The canwiyowa are rods of wood about the size of a pencil. There are usually about one hundred of them in a set.

The game is played by old women, who are divided into two sides with the same number of players on each side. Before the beginning of the game, they all agree on how many points each carving is worth.

To play, a player puts all the kansu into the tanoa and covers it with her hand. She shakes it and throws out all the kansu. The count is made, and she takes the number of counting sticks from the pile that she has won. When the counting sticks are all taken, the side which has the greater number wins the game.

Tasihaunpi (Catching Deer Bones With a Needle)

This is another gambling game. Sometimes men, boys, and girls play it, too. Usually, the women would sit on the ground as they played. Other people gambled on the winner of the game. Sometimes the bets were very large. To play the game, two Items are needed: tasiha (foot bones) and tahinspa (an awl or needle). The tasiha are made from the short bones of the foot of the deer or an antelope. There are usually from four to six in a set. Each of the bones is worked into the form of a hollow cone, so that the top of one will fit into the bottom of another. In this way, they could be stacked on top of each other like cups or glasses. From four to six holes

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were drilled through each bone at the wide end. They were all connected by a thong or string. Four loops about one-half inch in diameter are fastened to the end of the thong next to the top bone.

The tahinspa is made of bone, and is the same length as the tasiha when they are fitted together. One end of the tahinspa is drilled to make a hole. The other is shaped into a slender point, so that it will easily pass into the holes drilled in the wide ends of the bones.

To play the game, the player holds the tahinspa in one hand and tosses the tasiha with the other hand. The tasiha must be caught on the point of the tahinspa. If just one tasiha is caught on the tahinspa, this counts one point. If one tasiha is caught, and another.-falls on top of it. then this counts two. If two fall on top of the one that is caught, then the count is three. If they all fall on top, the game is over. If a tasiha is caught through one of the holes in its wider end, the count is two. If the tahinspa passed through one loop, the count is one. If through two loops, the count is two. As soon as a player fails to score, she passes the tahinspa and the tasiha on to the next player.

Amusement Games for Boys

The Lakota boys have many games that they play for fun. They also learn in these games the value of the Lakota way of life. Boy's games often imitate what their fathers and older brothers do, and what they will eventually do--hunt and make war. Some of the games are played at special seasons of the year, while others are played anytime during the year.

Paslohanpi (Throwing a Stick on Snow Game)

This game is not played with a real bow, but with a long piece of wood made flat by cutting it with an axe. It has a curve at the lowest p art, and is sharpened on the other side. The end that is curved has a buffalo or deer horn fastened on it. The player will grasp it at the other end and throw it, making it glide rapidly over the snow. These sticks are very hard to make, and valued highly by the owner. The object of the game is to see who can slide their stick the farthest.

Makakiciunpi' (Willow and Mud Fighting Game)

In the spring, when the ground is soft like putty, Lakota boys play this game.

Each boy presses a lump of mud around a willow stick, and lines up on one side facing the opposing teem.

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When the two teams are close to each other, they charge each other. Each boy hurls the end of the stick with the mud towards one of the opposite players. The players chase each other around as they throw their mud balls. Sometimes this game is played in the very early spring when the earth is still frozen. The game is the same, except that it is very dangerous, because the lumps of mud are frozen. Many players are seriously hurt in playing like this, but they continue to play.

Anakicitaneconpi (Playing War)

This game is played in the spring when the leaves have opened, the small birds are singing in the forests, and the meadow larks are singing on the open prairie. The boys form into two groups and play war. With wooden knives they will pretend to kill and scalp each other. Sometimes they will take prisoners.

Maka Sunkawakan Waskate (Playing with Mud)

During the spring, Lakota boys get some mud from the bank of a river or stream and shape the mud into the image of a horse or a buffalo. They play with these models as the men of the tribe would use horses or buffaloes. Once in a while, they will make men who dance the sun dance or fight with each other. Whenever they become tired of the models, they destroy them.

Peji Wokeya Kagapi (Playing Grown Up Men)

In the spring, Lakota boys imitate the older men. They go off by themselves and make a grass lodge. They cook food for a feast and while the food is being prepared, they dance, have horse races, etc. Later, they will pretend to go on war parties, hunt buffalo, and dance the sun dance.

Makanapopa (Shooting Mud Balls Game)

Lakota boys play this game along the banks of a stream. They take two clumps of mud and press each against their elbows. Then, they press the two clumps together and carefully make it into a hollow ball. The ball is then thrown into the stream as a target. When the target ball is hit by other clumps of mud or sticks, it bursts open with a loud sound.

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Magakiciyapi (Catching the Goose Game)

In the summer, Lakota boys make their way down to the water in the creek. One of them is the hunter and another is the goose. All the rest are ducks. They swim around in the water, slapping it with the palms of their hands. Sooner or later, the hunter catches the goose and dunks him a few times. The only escape for the goose is to climb on shore.

Ipahotonpi (Making Toy Guns)

In the fall, when the wind blows the leaves down from the trees, Lakota boys make pop-guns out of ash wood. The gun consists of three items: Tancan (the body), iyopazan (the ramford), and iyopuhli (the wadding).

The tancan is made from a piece of ash sprout, about six to ten inches long. The pith is removed. The iwopazan is made of tough wood, a little longer than the tancan, but narrow enough so that it passes through easily. The iyopuhli is placed in one end of the tancan. Then a more loosely fitting wad is forced quickly through the tancan by means of the ramrod. When this is done, the first wad flies out with an explosive noise. The boys use this toy to play hunting and war.

Micapeca Onkiciopi (Throwing Grass Spears Game)

When the grass is full-grown, young Lakota boys gather on the prairie in two groups. They chase each other with the sharp grass, trying to stick the grass in the neck or ankle-bones of their opponents. They throw the grass in bunches, not one at a time. They pretend to be in a real war, and the pain from the grass is sometimes very fierce.

Matokiciyapi (Running from the Bear Game)

There are two different versions of this game. In the first one, a young boy acts as the grizzly bear and digs a hole in the ground and waits for the others. The others choose a leader and walk towards the bear. The leader will take hold of the hair of the bear, then the bear springs up and chases the players. They scatter in all directions.

When the bear overtakes one of the boys, he tickles him. When he stops laughing, then the tickling stops.

In the other version of the game, two dagger-like sticks are held in the hands like claws. The other boys have houses represented by a stick. The bear cannot ~o over a stick, but he can go under it without using his hands. To do this, he digs with the wooden claws like a dog. When he gets under the stick, he chases the boy who had the house. The object is to touch someone with the claws. Then the person touched must become the bear, and the bear will again be a man.

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Tate Kahwogyapi (Whirling Wood Toy Game)

This is a toy that many of the young Lakota boys play with anytime. It consists of a blade of wood, usually red cedar. It is usually quite thin, but is about a foot long. One end of this is fastened to a wooden handle by a thong about twelve to eighteen inches long. The handle is about two to three feet long. By holding the handle about the head and swinging it rapidly with a circular motion, the blade is whirled rapidly and makes a buzzing noise. The object of the game is to see who can keep it buzzing for the longest time.

Hohuyuhmunpi (Whirling Bones Game)

This is a toy that is used in "buffalo fighting." It is made from the short bone of the foot of a large animal. It is fastened to the middle of a string of sinews about twelve to eighteen inches long. At the end of each string, a short stick is fastened to serve as a hand-hold.

These sticks are taken, one in each hand, and the bone is whirled around to twist the string. The two strings are pulled apart, and this causes the string to rapidly untwist. As it untwists, the bone twirls rapidly. When this is done, the motion of the bone makes a buzzing noise. A number of boys, each with a bone whirler, begin to buzz and imitate the actions of fighting buffalo bulls. The buzzing of the bones represents the bellowing of the bulls. They come near each other and strike the bones together. If the bone of any player is stopped from buzzing, he is defeated and out of the game.

Canwacikiyapi (Whipping Top Game)

This is a game of tops. The things needed to play are canwacikiyapi (tops) and icapsinte (whips). The canwacikiyapi is round with a point and is made from ash, cedar, buffalo horn, red catlinite or a stone. Some are painted with bands of red, blue, or yellow. Sometimes they are decorated with a scalp-lock.

The icapsinte has a handle and at the narrow end there is fastened from one to four lashes of deer hide. The handle is at least one and one-half feet Tong and the lashes are from twelve to fifteen inches long.

To play the game, a square is first marked off on ice or hard ground. There is only one entrance to the square. The player starts his top spinning either by his fingers or by the whip. He starts his top outside of the square and lie tries to force it inside by the use of the whip. Once the tops are inside the square, they cannot be touched. When they stop spinning, the one nearest the side opposite the entrance will win.

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In another game, a circle is marked off about six feet in diameter. Near the center, four holes are dug. Then, the players spin their tops outside the circle, and while they are spinning, they are guided towards the circle. If a top enters the circle, it cannot be touched. The player whose top lies in one of the holes, when it stops spinning, wins the game.

Peji Yuskita Kutepi (Shooting a Grass Ball Game)

In this game, grass is wrapped around a piece of bark until it begins to look like a large egg. The grass ball is used by throwing it into the air. Everyone shoots at it with bows and arrows.

There is a small mark on the ball, which is called the heart, and everyone tries to hit it. The one who sends his arrow nearest the heart gains the right to toss the ball into the air. The boy who hits the heart can throw the ball along the ground. This game is played for a long time, often until darkness comes.

Toka Kiciyutapi (Follow the Leader Game)

This game is like follow the leader. First, the leader is chosen. Then one of them says he will be second, another third, and another fourth, and so on. Then, following the leader, they all walk in single file in, out, and over the various obstacles. As soon as one misses his footing or falls, he is out of the game. The last one is made the leader for a new game.

Sometimes, when there are not enough trees or gullys to make the obstacle course difficult, the leader will jump or turn somersaults. No matter what the leader does, all the rest have to follow.

Unhcelapte (Shooting the Cactus Game)

All the boys gather on the prairie. One of them is a fast runner who takes a stick and thrusts it into a cactus. Then, he runs around holding the cactus above his head. While he does this, the others will shoot at it. When one of the boys hits the cactus, the boy who is carrying it will chase him. When he catches him, the game ends.

Taha Kiiciyapi (Shooting and Butchering a Deer Game)

In this game, some boys bring deer bones and some bring ashes or dust. Those with the deer bones act as deer, and the rest will chase them. The ashes and dust are used for shooting at the deer. They pretend that the clouds of dust which arise are coming from a gun. If a deer is hits then it is dressed and skinned on the spot. Then) the hide is carried home. (The hide is a blanket).

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Hosnasnakicun (Hopping on One Foot Game)

For this hopping game, a starting place is set up. One of the boys hops as far as he can and returns. When he is hopping, he cannot hold his foot with his hand. Then, the other boys try to go farther than the first one. When they get tired on one foot, they can change feet. This will make them very tired, but it strengthens their legs.

Games Played by Girls

Lakota girls have games they play for fun. In their games, they can learn the value of the Lakota way of lire. Girls' games often imitate what their mothers and older sisters do and what they will grow up to do - take care of the home and children.

Tipi Cikala (Playing House)

The girls will make their own toy tipis. They vary in size from little ones to others that are large enough to enter.

Hoksicala Kagapi (Playing Dolls)

Lakota girls love to play with dolls. The dolls are sometimes made of wood, but usually they are made of buckskin and stuffed with hair. The faces are painted and the dolls are dressed with either male or female clothing. Often, the little girls will make baby carriers, like those used by their mothers. They carry their dolls on their backs, just like mother.

Paslohanpi (Sliding a Stick on Ice Game)

This is a game played in winter on ice or snow. The hewahukezala (horned javelin) is about four or five feet long. It is thinner at one end than at the other. A tip of elk horn about four to eight inches long is fastened to the larger end. Then, the javelin is thrown so that it will glide over the snow or ice. The girl whose javelin slides the farthest wins the game. There is no limit to the number of players.

Games Played by Both Boys and Girls

There are a number of games that either boys or girls can play or that both can play together. There is no special season for these games, they can be played anytime.

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Ptegleska Wanasapi (Shooting and Butchering a Buffalo Game)

This is a game played by Lakota boys and girls together. At the beginning of the game, the girls scatter around a field or some open area. Then, the boys call out four tinies: "Kill the buffalo." After this, the girls drop on the ground. The last girl to fall is the buffalo. In the event a girl falls before the call is made four times, she is the buffalo.

All the other girls surround the "buffalo" and skin her. They take hold of her and lift her up four times. The girls will divide her up into parts. These parts are given to the players; the head, a leg, an arm, until everyone has something. Then, the game is over.

Hosisipa (Tickling Game)

Both girls and boys play this game of handpinching. Each player grasps the fold of the skin on the back of another player's hand using the thumb and the forefinger. This is done until all the hands are connected in a pile.

While the hands are swung back and forth, all the players shout the word "hosisipa." The first person to let go is tickled so hard that he can't stop laughing.

All during the game, each player uses the other three fingers of his hand to tickle the hand of the other person. While they are swinging the pile of hands back and forth, they continuously lower them until they touch the ground. Then the game is over.

Capa Onaskiskita (Running from the Beaver Game)

This game of "trampling on the beaver" is usually played by both Lakota boye and girls. Each of the players gathers his blanket around his neck in a roll. The one who is the beaver lies on the ground with hi~ blanket around himself. The others form a circle and walk around him chanting "Capa Onaskiskita! Capa Onaskiskita!" As soon as there is a break in the singing, the beaver quickly gets up and chases the others. Whoever he catches has to come and lie down in the middle of the circle. The game will continue until all have been caught.

Wayaka Kiciyazapi Skatapi (Capturing Prisoners Game)

Either boys or girls may play this game. In the beginning, two sides are formed. Each side tries to capture the players on the other side. The person who is captured must remain .just where he has been captured. When all the players on one side are captured, then the game is over.

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Napayuskiskitapi Skatapi (Untangling Game)

Sometimes a boy or girl will take a cord and tie it in a very complicated way, so that the ends of the cord cannot be seen. Then, he will ask someone else to find the ends. At other times, the player will go to a tree that has its bark stripped off or has smooth bark. Here he will make marks all over the tree, with lines crossing each other everywhere. Then, he will ask someone to find the ends of the lines. This can also be done in snow or dust.

Hinhankaga Skatapi (Owl Scaring Game)

This game is called the owl game. The children build a small lodge or tipi a short distance from the village. Then, all the children except one gather in the lodge or tipi. One of them whitens his face and puts red coloring around his eyes and comes scratching on the lodge or tipi. They act afraid of the noise.

Kignun Kacicipapi (Underwater Swimming Game)

There is underwater swimming in the creeks. The object is to see who can swim the farthest.

Napeoglece Kutepi (Throwing Willow Spear Game)

The boys take a willow stick and make a spear out of it. The strongest boy throws his spear first, then the others try to reach that spear or pass it up by throwing their spears near it.

Napsiyohli Kutepi (Tossing Rings on a Stick Game)

Six rings and a stick are used for this game. Put the rings on the stick and throw them into the air. Try to catch as many rings as possible back on the same stick before they hit the ground.

Petagakiciinpi (Throwing Burning Wood or Hot Coals Game)

Young boys would take burning pieces of wood or charcoal and throw them at each other to test the other's reflexes and their own bravery.

Sunknaspi (Shooting Arrows at a Bladder)

A bladder of an animal was used to shoot arrows at for practice and playing.

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Tabubukaga (Monster Game)

A boy has others pile robes on him and he becomes large and scary. Then he is a monster and the others run from him.

Inahmekiciciyapi (Hide and Seek Game)

Hide and Seek is a game where one person is "It". This person tries to find the others who are hiding. Whoever is found first (or last) becomes "It" for the next game.

Makapte (Making Clay Buffaloes)

Another pastime of the boys and girls is making buffaloes out of clay.

Kinyekiyapi (Making a Kite)

This is making a kite or making something fly in the air.

Napobyapi (Lighting Firecrackers)

This is when the children pass the time by lighting firecrackers.

Okawinhela (Merry-Go-Round Game)

This is a game in which the children hold hands and go around and around in a civcle until they are all dizzy.

Okicicuwapi (Tag Game)

This is a tag game where one person is "It." The others try to run from "It" and not let "It" touch them. Whoever is touched becomes "It."

Wanapohyapi (Playing with Balloons Game)

A balloon, probably made from the intestines of an toy used. It is blown up with air and then hung to dry. It is very light like a balloon and can float in the air. animal is the When it is dry,

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Wakan Skatapi (Playing With String Game)

Cut a piece of wrapping string or buckskin thong thin like a string into a length of no more than five feet. Holding the string between the hands, make cats1 cradles, suspenders. tipis, diamonds, broomsticks, and so on as the maker can imagine shapes made with the string.

Making the tipi or the broom is a one person game:

1st; Hold the string behind the little finger and thumb of one hand.
2nd: Pull the string across the palm forming loops around the little finger and thumb.
3rd: Repeat the motion downward forming a loop across the palm.
4th: Place the middle three fingers into the large loop left by the string and place the loop upon the back of the hand.
5th: Pull loops around the little finger and thumb simultaneously until all slack is taken up from the back of the hand loop. This leaves a string across the back of the hand.
6th; Place each of the middle three fingers into the lane provided by the loop taken from step five.
7th: Clinch fingers into a fist. Taking the string, place it under the string crossing the back of the hand and make it taut, leaving it lay upon the back of the hand.
8th: Lift the string crossing the back of the hand so as to cross back over the middle fingers. Pull slowly until the figure of a tipi or a broom is left standing in the palm of the hand.

Other string games require two persons and are best done by requesting a demonstration from someone skilled in the game. Following each demonstration, the learner can make other figures.


The Lakota people played a large variety of games. There were games for everyone. All the games were quite simple and required little in the way of preparation to play. Although the games were played for fun and great enjoyment was gained, the games also taught very important values of Lakota life.

Among the values learned, perhaps risk was the most important. It showed how people dealt with each other and the situations around them. Risk was the value at the root of the call to greatness issued by other people, by tribal leaders, and in emergencies. A young boy toughened himself and learned to be alert and quick on his feet. He played closely with the other boys and learned to know their reactions towards anything. He learned also by watching carefully imitating, as in the game where another stronger boy would throw his stick the farthest. There was a strong sense of victory in winning games, of being the strongest, fastest, or smartest. It brought attention from the older men and women also. This meant that the young person was someone noticeable for his physical abilities and would be a strong man in the future.

The men continued to play games of skill and endurance, maintaining their ability to be agile while in the camp. The pride they had of their physical prowess as youths was still carried, and they continually proved themselves worthy of their feats. If a man grew fat or slow, he was chided by his fellowmen and they attributed this fatness to any thing in their wildest imagination. It was socially better to remain lean and hardy and maintain a high level of coordination and agility.

Competition was held between the soldier lodges as in the game of shinny. Whoever lost held a feast for the other side or a bet was placed upon winning. In this way, there was great competition in winning and a sense of honor to belong to a soldier lodge that was hard to beat.

The young women held some identical games as the men but with less of the physical battling. Games were played by invitation, a girl usually inviting her friends to play another group of girls. The young boys watched these games along with the whole village. Everyone wanted to see strong girls at play. Probably the boys watches as prospective bride-grooms, choosing a girl to court.

As the Lakota grew older, the guessing games took the place of strength and agility. The skillfulness of placing the stones underneath mocassins and finding the correct one was hard to achieve. Bets were placed on those who would excel at this game. Sometimes, two sides opposed each other with large bets placed on winning.

In conclusion, the Lakota played many games with each age group participating in the game they were able to play. Emphasis was on a win rather than a loss. No one wanted to lose. Many winter days and evenings and summer days and evenings were spent enjoying the sport of playing games. It brought a close comradeship among those in the camp, and was an outlet for an informal group activity. To the Lakota, games were an important part of living.

Created: October 3, 2003 Updated: October 4, 2003