|CALIFORNIA TRIBAL ARTS|
GAME OF STAVES
Primarily a women’s game played by the Pomo, Wintun, and Miwok. The game requires six staves and ten to twelve counters. The staves are usually flat and undecorated on one side and rounded with a painted or burned design on the other. These designs are purely decorative and have nothing to do with the scoring. Materials used for making staves are elderberry or dogwood; counters are usually of willow.
When tossed or rolled to the ground, the staves are read as to how many fall face up (rounded side) or bottom up (flat side). Scoring systems vary but following is a popular version:
Three round & three flat showing - 1 counter
All flat or all round showing - 2 counters
Any other combination - No score
HAND GAME OR GRASS GAME|
Miwok: Hi’nuwa; Maidu: Sypom hela; Mono: Taiakwit; Pomo: Tabo’ka or Co’ka
This popular guessing game requires two pairs of bones, each about the size of a man’s first finger. One of each pair is grooved and wrapped about its middle with sinew or string. Ten counters are used. These are sticks, eight to twelve inches long. Two players on each side hide the bones; anyone may bet on the game and choose sides. A pair of the bones is used by each of the two players on the side whose turn it is. They hide the bones in bunches of grass or under a blanket or shawl, rolling them around in time to their gambling song, which is sung throughout the turn for luck and to try to confuse the opponents. When ready for guessing, the players hold their closed hands in front of their chests and revolve one about the other, in time to the song, until the guess is made. If the guess is incorrect the holders retain the bones for the next round and receive as many counters as there were points lost by the other side. If both are guessed right, the guessers receive two counters and have the next play. If only one is guessed right the guessers receive one counter and the player incorrectly guessed has another play. The game goes on until one team has won all the counting sticks. #802
|WOMEN’S DICE GAME|
A favorite game of the Yokuts and Miwok, the game varies only slightly from group to group. In his Handbook of Yokuts Indians, Frank Latta describes a Yokuts version as follows:
|“It was played by four women, two pairs of partners. The players were seated upon the ground, partners side by side and their opponents opposite. Between them was placed a large flat tray made of basketry material and having slightly upturned edges. This tray was called tiwon. The dice, called hoo’utch, were thrown upon the tray. In some localities the dice were made of acorn caps, but in most instances they were made from nuts of the native black walnut. The nut was split in half, the kernel removed, and the hollow filled with pitch or asphaltum. Into the pitch were pressed small bits of abalone shell or white shell beads. In this way the dice were numbered from one to eight; in some instances to as many as twelve. The dice were gathered from the mat between the two hands and sometimes rolled together. They were then thrown upon the mat. Four combinations were recognized in scoring. Three flat sides remaining up counted one point and one of the twelve [counting] sticks was awarded to the partners making the point.|
|Two flat sides up counted one point. All flat sides up or all flat sides down counted five points each and awarded five of the counting sticks. When only one dice lay upon the tray with the flat side up, the thrower lost one point and the dice were awarded to the two opposing players. Either of the partners could throw the dice. Considerable skill was thought necessary in throwing them. A moke (woman) who could roll the dice most rapidly and who could pour forth the most convincing entreaties was usually accorded this privilege. A Huuhchuish game has been known to continue without interruption for several days and nights.”|
The above photo of Wahnomkot (Aida Icho), Wukchumne Yokuts, shown throwing dice in the women’s dice game, was taken by Frank Latta in 1933. The gaming tray was woven by Wahnomkot and shows the brant goose design.
Opposite: A Miwok version of the women’s dice game in which six walnut shell dice and ten counting sticks are used. #801.