Lakota Games On Ice: Ancient Winter Games Take Participants Back in Time

Courtesy Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village / Participants play the Game of Javelins.

A bit of time-traveling took place at the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village.

For the third year in a row, the facility, located in Mitchell, S.D., hosted its Lakota Games on Ice this past Saturday.

Mike Marshall, Rosebud Lakota Sioux, was once again the instructor of the games, which were played centuries ago by Native Americans during the winter months. Marshall, an artist and cultural presenter, makes all of the objects that are used in the Lakota Games.

“I try to stay correct in the materials,” Marshall told ICTMN. “And we’re playing the same they would have played it [centuries ago].”

About 50 people showed up to learn about and participate in the games. The majority of those who took part were between 5-8 years-old. One of the most popular games they took part in was called Pteheste. This game features an object with a buffalo horn tip that participants slide across the ice.

Left to right: tate kahwogyapi-Wind chaser, Pteheste-sliding the buffalo cow horn, paslohanpi- game of javelins.

Traditionally, the game is played by seeing which competitor can slide the buffalo horn the farthest along the ice. But since there were patches of snow and not a clear lengthy distance of ice available on Lake Mitchell on Saturday, Marshall opted to alter the Pteheste game somewhat.

A small ramp made of snow, was utilized in the altered version of the game. Instead of calculating the furthest distance the object slid, the winner of each round was the one who could get their game piece closest to an arrow, which was marked on the ice beyond the ramp.

The majority of those that took part in Saturday’s festivities were non-Native.”I don’t think there’s a lot of tribal members in Mitchell,” Marshall said. “But kids are kids. Wherever I go and do these games it’s all the same to them.”

Marshall demonstrated, and then had participants try a dozen different games on Saturday.

An activity that he had not previously showed at the games was called Napsiohli. For this game, participants are holding onto a sewing awl. Then, they extend their hand and drop the awl into a small finger ring, which is a hoop made out of willow.The competitor that drops their awl closest to the middle of the ring is declared the winner of the round. “It’s a great material to use,” Marshall said of the willow utilized for the finger ring. “It’s easily manipulated and easy to strip.”

Napsiohli- small finger ring.

There was one major variation, however, for those who were playing Napsiohli, which was traditionally a women’s game. “Of course, in the old days the women were gambling when they were playing this game,” Marshall said.

The Lakota Games On Ice have been held the past three years in part to create some awareness for the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village.

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