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There were many games played throughout the year, some very old game while others more recent.  Games were for all ages while others were for adults. Card games were played year round in more recent times.

There were many locations  in Paiute Country set aside specifically for game in the Summer and Fall. You can still see the wagon tracks where some were played. Most of these sites have since been lost in memory.

Games included: horse races, wagon races, foot races, target shooting (bow/arrow), moccasin races, high dollar/trade item hand gaming, card games, rock game, dice game, basket hiding game, shinney (field hockey), ring-and-pin (using bone or rabbit skulls), hoop-and-pole, cane dice (dice made of flat wood), dancing feast and fun. 

(Not all the games are explained below)


SHINNY (Kwe’pauk)

The equipment needed for this game is a buckskin ball about the size of a baseball and a stick of the proper size to strike this ball comfortably. This stick resembles a hockey stick and should be shaped similar to the stick in the sketch. The base of the stick should be flattened some on the striking end to hit the ball squarely.

Choose a field approximately 50 to 75 yards long. Two teams are formed with an equal amount of players on each side. If team A was to start the game off it would hit the ball from the X mark knocking it towards the other end of the field as shown in the accompanying sketch. Team A's purpose would be to get the ball across the goal line marked Y. Team B's purpose would be to prevent them and get the ball across the goal line marked Z. Players and bystanders would bet any of their personal possessions on the side they thought would win. I was told that when one side got the ball across their opponent's line they won the game. However, they may have also used some kind of point system.



After one team won they would rest a little while and then play again. The teams would change goals between each game and the winning team would start the game off by hitting the ball towards their goal.

I observed this game being played during the late 1940s and early '50s by the Paiutes from Navajo Mountain and Willow Springs, Arizona. They were migrant workers camping in the fields near Richfield, Utah, and would play with other Paiute bands from Utah also working there. To play this game make a layout on the ground with small stones as shown in the following sketch.

ROCK GAME (Stick Dice)






Make three flat sticks about 6 to 8 inches long and about one-half to one inch wide. One side of each stick should be colored a dark color while the other side should be left plain. Whoever starts the game off would take the three sticks in one hand and strike the ends of all three at once on the flat rock in the center of the playing area in a manner that they will bounce and land which ever way they will on the ground. They can land any of the four ways shown in the sketch which shows the values of the stick combinations at each toss.






If the sticks land with one plain and two-colored sides up, the player will move over three pebbles clockwise from the starting point. The player would then place a little twig at that spot between the pebbles. Each person playing has a twig representing himself. Everyone takes turns and moves over whatever amount of pebbles the sticks allow him depending on the way they fall. If a player lands in the water (shown in the sketch) he loses a turn or starts over, I'm not sure which. The first player to go all the way around wins. Matching bets are made of articles or money which goes to the winner. If a player who tosses the sticks gets 10 points he gets another turn. Four ten’s win.


RABBIT HEAD GAME (Tawsuhng'uhmp)

Tuhsuhng'uhmp is the Paiute word for the Rabbit Head Game. A rabbit skull tied to a pointed bone with a cord approximately 8 to 12 inches long is the instrument used in this game. This instrument is called tawsuhng'unump. The rabbit head is tossed into the air while maintaining hold of the bone pin which is pointed upward and moved about so as to cause one of the holes in the skull to land on the pin. Each skull hole has a different value in points as follows: Nose, ear, and eye holes counted for 2 points; tooth sockets 5 points; the small hole below the ear 10 points. The tiny hole on each side of the nose hole won the game.

This game is a gambling game with the winners taking a matched bet. Several people may play on opposite teams, or one individual against another. One side kept playing as long as it could cause one of the skull holes to land on the pointed bone to a designated number, or until it hit the winning hole. When a player failed to catch a hole, the opposite team took over. Kaibab, Hamblin John.

HANDGAME (Naiung'wee)

Naiung'wee is the Paiute word for the widespread Hand Game, or Stick Game, that is played in Utah, Northern Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and other places with only minor variations. It is a very old game and can be played by tribes who do not understand each other's languages since hand signs are used. This game was very popular in the past for intertribal or local competition and is still popular today. The Paiutes had a reputation among surrounding tribes for their skill in playing the Hand Game. It is basically a gambling game. In the old days the bets would consist of valuable personal belongings, such as saddles, bows, rifles and other things; today these bets consist of money with stakes sometimes ranging up to several thousand dollars.


Players choose who they want to play with and try to pick someone who is well known for their skill in hiding or guessing the bones. Two opposing teams are formed which do not have to consist of an equal number of players; they then make their bets. A person on each side collects all the bets on his side until the bets on both sides are matched. Players and spectators can bet on whichever side they think will win. If a player wins then his bet is doubled. If he loses then he gets nothing.




The players of each side all sit in a row on the ground facing the opposite side sitting about five feet in front of them as shown in the sketch on the right. Two long poles are used in this game. One is placed on the ground at the feet of the players on each side to be hit with a stick by each player as they keep rhythm to a song when their side is singing. The money that has been wagered normally sits on the ground between the opposing teams near the point marked X.




The object of this game is to guess which hand the opposing team has concealed a white bone. Four bones are used in this game, two solid white ones and two white ones with a black strip circling the center (see sketch of Handgame Bones). Each bone is about three inches long so it can be hidden in the palm of the hand. When the game starts the side hiding the bones starts singing and two people on that side are chosen to hide the bones. Each person takes one white bone and one stripped bone. He may either place his hands behind his back or under a blanket or coat so the opposing team can't see which hand the white bone is hidden in. After the bones have been hidden the two hiding them in their fists fold their arms in front of their chests for all to see so they can't switch the bones into the other hand.

The opposing team must then guess which hands contain the two white bones. The ideal thing to do is to guess both white bones in one guess. If the person on the opposite side doing the guessing wants to guess the inside hands of both opposite players, he will point his flat hand (palm facing left) in the middle of the players hiding the bones and say sekaw'vee (in the crack). If the person guessing wants to guess the outside hands of both players he will spread his thumb and index (other fingers closed with palm down), point them at the opposite team and say wuhkaw'vee (summit). The Handgame sketch shows the inside and outside hands of the side hiding the bones. The two shaded circles represent the two players hiding the bones. The guesser has to say sekaw 'vee, wuhkaw'vee, or make any vocal sound when he guesses or the guess is invalid. He may point and make all the hand and face signs he wants but until a vocal sound is made while pointing, the side hiding the bones is not required to show the hidden bones. The guesser may also pick up one of the counting sticks and point, which also confirms that he has made his guess and requires the hiding side to show the bones. The guesser may also want to guess both left hands of the hiding team. To do this, the guesser points his index to his own right, which is the hiding team's left side, and makes a sound. If guessing their right

hands he points to his left.

If the guessing side guesses both white bones then it becomes their turn to sing and hide the bones. If it only guesses one of the white bones then the opposite side forfeits those two bones and continues singing and playing with the two remaining bones. However, the guessing side has to forfeit one of the counting sticks and then guess again.

When the hiding side has only one set of bones left then the guesser just points at the left or right hand while making some sound. He does not use the two phrases given above which

are used to guess two players at once. Whenever the guessing side misses its guess it forfeits a stick. If it misses two white bones in one guess then it forfeits two sticks. When it guesses the last white bone then the guessing side takes the bones, starts singing, and hides the bones in the same manner.

The guessing side is never pressured to guess. They may take as long as they wish while making as many fake gestures as they want while the hiding side sings and beats on

the long pole. The game is over when one side wins all twelve counting sticks.

Sometimes ten are used. These sticks are about the thickness of a pencil and approximately one foot long. They are decorated with paint and pointed on one end so they may be stuck

in the ground. In the beginning of the game the counting sticks are called "live" sticks and

are stuck into the ground in a row pointing upward at an angle. A neutral person can hold them or six can be given to each side. When a team wins a stick, it is then called a "dead"

stick and is given to the side that won it where it must be laid down. They keep playing until all the live sticks are dead and one side has won all the dead sticks of the opposing team if it has any.

If the hiding side wins all the counting sticks in one song it is called a "home run" in modern terms. Sometimes a game can be over in a few minutes with six consecutive inaccurate guesses, and at other times it may take a day or two to win as the counting sticks go back and forth from one side to the other.

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