Aujalee Moore, April Campbell
Health, Medicine and Nursing
Material Type:
Lesson, Lesson Plan
Middle School
  • Health Education
  • PE
  • Physical Education
  • SB 13
  • SB13
  • Tribal History/Shared History
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives

    Education Standards

    Health: Games of Mental Skill

    Health: Games of Mental Skill


    Tribal nations and Indigenous communities throughout North America have always enjoyed 
    games and athletic activities that provide entertainment, teach skills of physical and mental endurance, promote tribal values such as teamwork and fairness, and allow individuals and teams to challenge themselves in competition. These games and activities range from the simple hand (or
    “stick”) game that dates back thousands of years to the modern-day Indian Relay Races that often
    draw large crowds. Even in the pre-contact era there were some similarities in the games played
    by tribes in a given region or even in completely different parts of the country, but there were
     also many variations in the rules, materials, and methods of play.

     In this lesson, students will learn how to play one version of the hand game and will hear about
     some of the variations in the playing materials and rules used by different tribes in Oregon. Students
     will learn to take cues from opponents to identify the hand that holds the chosen item.

    Health: Games of Mental Skill

    Useful websites

    Key Ideas

    Gambling is an integral part of this traditional game, which is classified by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act as a Class I game. This classification means that tribes can make their own regulations, such as how and when to play. More information can be found here.

    In traditional Native cultures the hand game was nearly always accompanied by drumming and singing. These songs were meant to cheer on and give power to the hider while also distracting the guesser. This lesson incorporates music but does not involve Native drumming. Native songs and drumming styles are unique to each tribe and are passed down from generation to generation. As such, they are part of tribal identity. For this reason, it would not be appropriate to use traditional songs and drumming—even on a recording— while teaching this lesson.

    In addition, students should be discouraged from mimicking Native singing and drumming styles. While the intent of such actions may be to emulate rather than denigrate, mimicking or borrowing Native songs and drumming styles is a form of cultural appropriation.

    When possible, teachers are encouraged to connect with tribal members who may be willing to share knowledge about hand games or traditional songs. Some tribes or tribal members have also shared hand game songs on YouTube, although these should only be used to provide context and should not be used while playing the hand game in the classroom.

    Traditionally, each tribal nation also had its own variations on the game, such as the type of playing pieces used, the amount of time someone was allowed to guess, and the type of instrument used for counting.

    Use the links below to access resources for this lesson: