Native American Technology and Art

Netted Hoop & Pole Game

Natives of different groups have their own special ways to play the Hoop and Pole game, but in all the games a person tosses a long dart of some kind at a circular hoop. In this version of the game the hoop is rolled along the ground, set into motion by a third player, while the two other players throw their pole as the hoop rolls in front of them. The score depends on how or if the pole falls on or through the hoop.

Some hoops are made by bending a branch into a circle and tying the ends with rawhide. Other hoops are made from bundled corn husks, cedar bark or other plants and are wrapped with rawhide or colored yarn, and some with beads attached to the inside to divide up the ring. Some hoops use rawhide lacing stretched across the hoop to divide it in two halves or into quarters. And many hoops have a web of string woven onto them, which divides up the hoop into different sections and shapes like squares, rectangles and triangles. These different shapes in the web can then e used to determine the score when the dart lands in them. Netted hoops are made by the Arapaho of Wyoming, the Cheyenne of Oklahoma, the Oglala of South Dakota, the Chippewa of North Dakota, and the Crow and the Grosventre tribes of Montana.
Image adapted from "Games of the North American Indian", Culin:1975

Game image compliments of Waaban Aki Crafting
People of the Grosventre use a net of buckskin lacing. The holes of the web vary in shape and each has itís own name and value. The large square in the center is the heart; the rectangles coming out in four directions are the buffalo bulls; the last rectangle at the edges of the hoop are buffalo cows; the four groups of small triangles in between the rectangles are the buffalo calves; the large pentagonal holes along the edge of the ring are the wolves; the small holes at the edge of the ring are the coyotes (on either side of the rectangles called cows). This game ends when the first player reaches a certain number of points decided before hand.

Other ways of keeping score would be to reach a certain number of total points or for one player to try and acquire all the poles of the other player. Using this method, each player in turn throws one pole. If one playerís pole pierces the hoop while the other misses, the player who hit the hoop takes the pole of the player that misses. If both players miss, or both players hit the hoop, they pick up their own poles and each take another turn. This game ends when one player has captured all the other poles.

Different kinds of darts were made by Native Americans of different groups too. Some poles were simply a pointed stick; some sticks were only a few inches long while other sticks were several feet long and looked more like spears. Sometimes the sticks were painted or carved, or had feathers tied to one end. Some poles have forked ends, or hooks or barbs, to catch on the hoop so that it would not pass all the way through.

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