Games and Contests (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: Games reflected the importance of athleticism to most Indian tribes, provided entertainment, and helped develop skills for work, hunting, and war
American Indians traditionally participated in a variety of games and contests. Children tended to mimic adult activities to ready themselves for work and war, while men tested themselves in preparation for hunting and warfare, developing their skills and endurance. Both men and women found entertainment in playing games, including games of chance.
Athletic games involved wrestling, throwing spears, shooting arrows, kicking sticks or balls, running, and many other activities. These games tested the strength, stamina, and courage required for survival in the Americas. Pre-Columbian Native Americans played forms of field hockey, ice hockey, soccer, and football, and they developed canoes, sleds, snowshoes, kayaks, toboggans, stilts, swings, and rubber balls. Many Native American games involved teams playing against each other, in contrast to the more individualistic sports of pre-contact Europeans. Unlike the spectator sports of today, there was more total participation, and participation was more important than winning, even though betting on outcomes was universally common.
Games also had a religious aspect, and their history and rules were often bound up in the traditional beliefs of the tribes. According to Stewart Culin, who did an extensive study of...
(The entire section is 1220 words.)
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