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Traditional Native Games

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The winged bone game, hutanacute, was traditionally played by men. Marshall crafted the distinctive gaming pieces from buffalo ribs. The front of the rib is pointed; the back is flat. Each rib is inscribed with lineal decorations to distinguish it from other game pieces. Young cow, pteheste, resembles a large arrow with a wooden shaft. The tip of a buffalo horn is attached to one end; turkey feathers are attached to the other end.

Informally, all people played catching deer bones with a needle, tasiha unpi, but only women played it in formal competition and for stakes. It consists of a long pin held in one hand and a set of deer bones and beaded loops held in the other hand. The player swings the set of bones and beads in the air and then attempts to catch them with the pin.

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Photo of Ipahotonpi (Pop Gun) game

The Center’s game pieces are based on artifacts preserved at the Buechel Memorial Lakota Museum at St. Francis Mission, St. Francis, South Dakota. The collection was assembled by Eugene Buechel, S.J., in the early 20th century.

Between 1890 and 1913, Bad Heart Bull (1869-1913) created a pictographic record of Oglala Sioux history and culture. The work comprises more than 400 drawings and Lakota language script notations made in a ledger book. Among the images of Lakota culture are depictions of games. The Center displays a reproduction of a pictograph through an arrangement with University of Nebraska Press.

Traditional games from Native cultures and from cultures throughout the world speak to the Center’s mission of promoting dialogue, understanding and peace among all peoples who live in Siouxland and the region.

Photo of Canwacikiyapi (Tops) game
Ipahotonpi (Pop Gun)
Canwacikiyapi (Tops)
This consists of tancan, the body; iyopazan, the ramrod and iyopuhil, the wadding. Boys pretended to do battle or go hunting with these wooden toy guns.
(Game piece crafted and photographed by Mike Marshall, Rosebud, S.D.)
There are two parts to this game. Canwacikiyapi, the top; and icapsinte, the whip used to set the top in motion and create a humming sound. As many as 50 boys played tops on a square or circular field.
(Game piece crafted and photographed by Mike Marshall, Rosebud, S.D.)
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We will be closed for one month beginning March 17.
All on-site programs and events
have been cancelled
Art Contest News
We are still accepting entries to
the "Story Time with Lewis & Clark"
Art Contest. Follow the contest link
for information about submitting
artwork electronically or by mail.
2:00 p.m. Sunday, March 29
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Noah Towns
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