Teams - Aboriginal sport emphasized team cooperation. The success of the team was more important than individual celebrity. There were few "superstars." Before a major competition, both players and community prepared themselves in mind, body and spirit.

Lacrosse - Aboriginal people played lacrosse for many reasons, including healing. In some regions, players used two sticks and a ball. Elsewhere, particularly in the North, they used one stick and one ball. Team size varied from a dozen players to several hundred, although not all necessarily played at the same time.

Lacrosse stick and ball
Anishnaabe (Ojibwa)
Collected on the Lac Seul Reserve, Ontario
Wood and animal hide
Canadian Museum of Civilization, III-G-359 a,b, D2002-013530, CD2002-266

Lacrosse Stick and Ball - III-G-359 a,b - D2002-013530 - CD2002-266

Ball Games - Eastern Aboriginal cultures played ball games closely resembling today's soccer. Other communities played a game similar to North American football.

Double ball was played with a ball of tanned hide stuffed with sand or animal hair. Tossed from one player's stick to another, the ball moved down the field. A player who tossed the ball through the opposite team's goal posts scored a goal. Teams varied from six to one hundred participants on each side.

Double ball
Nun-da'-wä-o-no' (Seneca)
Made by Jim Crow, Wyandotte, Oklahoma, U.S.A.
Deerskin, hair and sinew
Canadian Museum of Civilization, III-I-467, D2002-013568, CD2002-266

The ball, made from a single piece of tanned skin and then cut, stuffed and sewn with cotton thread, is used with a stick. The game, played by women, is similar to lacrosse. The balls are joined by a rectangular length of tanned skin.

Double Ball - III-I-467 - D2002-013568 - CD2002-266

Archery - Archery games included speed shooting, shooting at moving and stationary targets, and shooting for accuracy. All were associated with betting. Young boys took up archery very early. As teenagers they competed regularly. Before the introduction of the gun, shooting arrows accurately and quickly was a matter of life and death.

Snow Snake - A common winter game in northern North America is the snow snake game. In one form of the game, players slide or toss a pole or "snake" along a frozen path or snow trough for great distances, sometimes as much as 1.6 kilometers. The individual or team whose snake travels the furthest wins a point.

Snowsnake "otter" or kuinik
St. Mary's Reserve (Fredericton), New Brunswick
Early 1900s
Made by Jim Paul
Canadian Museum of Civilization, III-E-66, D2002-013520, CD2002-348

Snowsnake - III-E-66 - D2002-013520 - CD2002-348

Foot Races - Foot racing was probably the most universal and popular of all Aboriginal sports. Well-known Canadian Aboriginal runners include Deer Foot of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Alberta, and Tom Longboat from the Six Nations community in Brantford, Ontario. Foot races continue to be important events in most Aboriginal communities.


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