A successful First International Native Games Conference
in June 2013
the times before reservations:
“We had our societies.
Everything in tribes was very structured. The games back
then were used as a tool for socializing, for teaching.
There were spiritual games for healing and games of
competition and gambling. When the reservation period
came those things ceased to exist because of federal
laws. We couldn’t do this, we couldn’t do that.”
Craig Falcon, Executive Director of
the International Traditional Games Society
Montana: Salish Kootenai College and
the International Traditional Games Society are helping
revive the importance of indigenous games.
summer, the two
groups hosted a first-time conference that
included professors from across the continent. The meeting focused
traditional Native games through a number of
academic disciplines of Native American
Learning how historic trauma has affected
the generations in their ability to survive.
the neuroscience of joy and play—part of the survival
picture for all traditional people.
In addition to speakers, Jeremy Red Eagle,Sioux, and Alex Alviar,
Philippian, lead youth
competitions of shinney, doubleball, and lacrosse.
Seth Shields, Assiniboine/Sioux,
and Jacob Stalnaker, Blackfeet, helped younger
leaders teach Native games played on their own reservations or urban
Perspectives on the purpose, impact, and
lost value of the Traditional games
think encouraging free play amongst kids is an
important avenue by which they generate the comfort
of discomfort. They can push themselves and really
challenge the development of the prefrontal cortex.
[Free play] encourages kids to be kids. It's also
important for social development.”
Dr. Sergio Pellis, University of Lethbridge
“Children between the ages of three years and eight
years must have time for unstructured play with
other children in order to develop rich neural
connections in the cerebral cortex that will enable
them to be skillful, social beings for the rest of
Dr. Jaak Panksepp, Washington State University
“Native games were the way to develop ‘face’ in the
deepest sense of an individual’s growth within the
community. It created the place for strength,
cooperation, spiritual connections, and
responsibility toward others.”
Dr. Gregory Cajete, University of New Mexico
of children from their families broke parenting
skills, cultural/spiritual ties, and most of all,
removed children from healthy play that developed
social responsibilities to each other.”
Dr. Gyda Swaney, University of Montana
“Generations of Native Americans were
affected socially, emotionally, spiritually,
and physically by the historical trauma of
war, removal of home place, and separation
of families, bands, and clans. The
results are still seen today.”
Dr. Billy Jo Kipp, President of Blackfeet Community
games can be used in any subject area of
modern classrooms: math, creative writing,
social studies, history, science, P.E. or
physics. Those games fit into the
students’ framework of play knowledge and
can provide deep understanding in any
Lamarr Oksasikewiyin, Cree, Saskatchewan
“Games were played for many
reasons including building the skills necessary for
survival, for entertainment, and for celebration
after a successful hunt. There is comradery between
all who coached and helped each other. You couldn’t
survive traditionally without the help of other
people in your village.”
Nicole Johnson, Chair of the Board for the
World Eskimo Indian Olympics
"Torgue, transitional motion,
impulse, momentum, horizontal range, and other
physics concepts can be taught through guli danda.
They see and play the game. They have an image of
the action. Then they learn the concept."
Surish Joshi, India, guli
danda, an ancient game of India, in teaching physics
“Montana was the first
state to have support for 'Indian Education for
All,' mandated by the state constitution and
supported by state policy. We have all grown in our
knowledge of each other’s history and culture.”
Lynn Hinch and Jennifer Stadum of Montana’s O.P.I’s
Indian Education Department
“These games were so important
to learning the old ways about nature, people, and
spirit. Children learned to observe from the
Arleen Adams, Salish
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