Dakota Games

During the winter, the Dakota people would play a variety of games. Often, games were used as a way to teach children critical skills that would be important later in life. Below are some games that would have been played during this time of the year:

Deer Toe Game(Taṡaka)

This game is known as deer toes, or the deer hooves game, depending on what material was used. The one you see today is known as a deer toe game because the toe bone of the deer is used. The Dakota people would fashion the bone by boiling it and working it until the inside of the bone was a hollow cone so they would ¥t over each other. Then, a bone needle was tied with leather to one end (metal was used in later years) and run through the openings of the bone material to a knot on the other end. The knot could be decorated with beads or dyed porcupine quills. To play the game, a player would try to catch the bones with the needle. If one bone was caught, then it would be one point with each additional bone counting toward winning. If all the bones were caught in one try, the game would be over. This was a game played by women, but children and men would also play at times by themselves, or informally. 

Winged Bone (Hutinaċute)

This game is made from the rib bone of a bison, cow, or other large animal, and two rods that are inserted into holes drilled into the bone material. The rods could be made from a variety of material, but plum sprouts were a popular material for this game. Winged Bone is a game played by men on the ice during winter. To start the game, each player would determine how many winged bones to use. Typically, two to four winged bones would be used, but each player must play with the same number. Then, each player would throw their winged bones like they would a bowling ball. Whichever player threw their winged bone the farthest was the winner.

Dancing Wood (Top) (Ċan kahuhuṡya)

Also known as a top, dancing wood consists of a smooth conical-shaped piece of wood—ash and cedar were popular wood types to use, and sometimes pipestone, horn, or other types of stone—and a stick with two leather pieces tied to the end to form a small whip. This was known as a game for boys that would be played in the wintertime, primarily on the ice. To play, each player would spin the top onto the ice and then proceed to use the whip in order to keep the top spinning. There were a variety of different ways to play with this toy. Some games would have the players competing to see whose top could go the farthest. Another way to play was to draw a circle with four small holes in the center. Then, spin the tops and whosever top goes into one of the center holes first was the winner

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