Native Games Conference
4:59 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

How reconnecting with traditional games is helping tribes heal

The Stone People game requires a steady hand, good memory, and storytelling. Hoop games involve throwing accuracy and eye-hand skills.
The Stone People game requires a steady hand, good memory, and storytelling. Hoop games involve throwing accuracy and eye-hand skills.
Credit Katrin Frye

The International Traditional Games Society was started when a group of native middle school students in Browning asked a simple question.

“They asked their teacher ‘what kind of games did we play back in the day?’ and the teacher had no idea,” said Executive Director Craig Falcon. He said the students went to religious leaders in the community who connected them with other groups and cultural organizations. The idea of collecting games grew from there, spreading to other tribes. Today, the Society has about 120 different games from different tribes. Games like Double Ball, and Shinny, as well as many others.

Kickballs can be made using different fabric, filled with sand and buffalo hair, or whatever you have on hand. They can also be made out of hacky sacks, like these pictured, by attaching a braided tail.
Kickballs can be made using different fabric, filled with sand and buffalo hair, or whatever you have on hand. They can also be made out of hacky sacks, like these pictured, by attaching a braided tail.
Credit Katrin Frye

“If you just hear it, you think of ‘games’: basketball, football, tennis, whatever, just a game. But, if you look at the culture behind the game, these games were used as life skills tools, conflict resolution tools, healing tools,” Falcon said many of the games are spiritual and they can heal families, and trauma. He said research being conducted by neuroscientists is proving this connection.

“That’s the concept that we want to share with youth and adults because there has been a breakdown in cultural identity since the reservation period started; the mission schools and boarding schools pretty much striped all of those things from families on how to be healthy families.” Falcon said the games bring back family values, cultural values, self-respect and community respect. Falcon says it’s all about creating healthy bodies, and healthy minds.

The Society put together a youtube video in preparation for the first Traditional Native Games Conference and Games held June 26-28 at the Salish and Kootenai College in Pablo.