Aboriginal hand games regaining popularity
Condensed by Native Village
ancient aboriginal game that almost became extinct has
suddenly surged back into popularity.
Hand games — a community game often played with drums,
sticks and spent bullets — nearly died out during the
residential-school era. In many communities, only a few
elders still remembered the rules. But with a new focus on
culture and pride, the chants and drums are ringing again.
Hand Games is a game of
intimidation, bluff and chance. It's about "reading" people
and has been compared to Texas Hold'em. The best
hand-game players compete for up to $20,000 in prize money.
“Today, (my father) is probably looking down at me smiling,”
said Ross Giroux, a tournament coordinator.
Giroux’s father spent years trying to teach hand games to
kids, but they weren't interested. He died five years ago.
On the surface, hand games are simple. Two teams face off,
hide small objects in their left or right hand and the
others try to guess which.
But then you add in constant drumming, chanting, shouting
and shaking players to intimidate and confuse them. In
the end, it’s a mind game.
“It does tend to get noisy,” said Rita Bellerose, a team
coach for 8-9 year olds. She trains them to stare at the
other team until one inadvertently glances down to the hand
hiding the object.
The hardest part is guessing, said eight-year-old Claydon
House, adding, “when you’re playing three games straight and
your legs just hurt.”
game was often played when communities got together. They played for a
horse, a wagon or a gun. The best games could last for days.
Today's school kids have a 30-minute limit.
Hand games were added to western sports at the Arctic Winter Games
in 1990. A junior men's category was added in 2002 and a
junior women’s category added in 2004.
In native communities, hand games is now consider the second most popular event after hockey.
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