Ah, it’s June already. Where I grew up, June was a very hot summer month. Here in southern California, it can be hot, yes, but it’s August and September that are the hottest months of the year here. Nevertheless, June reminds me of games and play. As a child we played all kinds of games: tag, hide-and-seek, softball, red robin, mother-may-I. And of course we climbed and swung from many a tree. I should tell you also that I’ll be giving away a free book to one lucky blogger today, so do come on in and leave a message.
All tribes were different, of course. But let’s start with the Western tribes. The Mandans and most all Plains tribes had sham fights. These were for the young boys and it was a part of their regular exercise. Catlin also writes that it also constituted a branch of their education. These were carried on in the mornings of the summer months and were played by boy between the ages of 7 and 15. They played their games naked, although each one had a belt around his waist where he carried a knife made of wood or something equally harmless. The game lasted about an hour and those that took “scalps” (not the real thing of course) would step forward and tell of their deeds after the sham battle. Meanwhile their sweethearts looked on with affection and wonder at these young heros.
Off to the right here is another picture of the American Indian’s Style of ball play. There were also games of the moccasin, of the platter and of course feats of archery. The Mandans played a game calle Tchung-kee — which Catlin describes as “a beautiful athletic exercise.” The game is played on a pavement of claywhich is smooth and hard. Two champions choose their sides — bets are then made and then the game starts. As George Catlin describes it: “Two men start off upon a trot, abreast of each other, and one of them rolls in advance of them, on the pavement, a little ring of two or three inches in diameter, cut out of a stone; and each one follows it up with his ‘tchung-kee’ (a stick of six feet in length), which he throws before him as he runs, sliding it along upon the ground after the ring, endeavouring to place it in such a position when it stops, that the ring may fall upon it, and recive one of the little projections of leather through it, which counts for game, one, or two, or four, according to the position of the leather on which the ring is lodged.” Sounds a little complex, as well as a game requiring a great amount of skill.
There were also horse races. And in tribes (particularly the Eastern tribes) that didn’t have horses, the races were almost always foot races. I found it interesting that almost all of these races were done in the nude. As a matter of fact, I’ve written twice (maybe three times) about these races that were carried on in the nude. How intriguing. Interestingly George Catlin found himself in a position where he had to race. It required him to strip down completely, which was quite embarrassing for him. One can almost feel his blush on the pages of his work. Another interesting fact was that after the race was over, a crowd of girls waited at the finish line where he was to dismount. Apparently they were curious as to what a white man looked like in the nude. Another fact that he found quite embarrassing. I guess it’s why I’ve written about it on two or perhaps three different occasions.
To the left here is a painting done by Karl Bodner. This is of an Assiniboine warrior. It’s one of my favorites of his paintings. The Assiniboine tribe had an interesting game of chance — gambling — called Cos-soo. In one of my books, THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF, I describe this game in detail, since the hero of the book “wins” the heroine in this game of chance. In this game when it was played for real, many a man lost all that he owned, including the very clothes on his back, along with his wife. Another interesting fact is this: Did you know that Sacagewia was won by her husband — a French trader in a game of chance? At the time, the man who lost her got himself into a lot of trouble with his wives.
Women also played many games — I was trying to find a picture on the internet of one of these games — I believe that Catlin painted a picture of this. But alas, I couldn’lt find it. I don’t believe that the games played by the women carried bets — they were played for fun and exercise. And of course everybody learned early how to swim and how to ride a horse. In fact, another “game” of sorts was a kind of rodeo, where the men would show off many different feats of horsemanship.
To the left is a Catlin painting of an Archery contest. And of course there were also the buffalo hunts, that, while these were serious in nature, were also feats of bravery and skill. I guess when all is said and done, we might be able to say that we all share many different traits, regardless of who we are or where we’re from. And perhaps in times of conflict this is something to remember and take note of. What are some of these traits: Well, for one we all love our families. We all desire to protect that which is ours and we all want to shelter those we love. Plus, we all love to play.
So tell me, do you have a favorite sport? A favorite game? Don’t foget that I will be giving away a free copy of the book, BLACK EAGLE, today. So come on in and leave a post.
And please if you haven’t done so already, pick up a copy of SENECA SURRENDER today! Here’s hoping you’ll give my new book a try.