Native American Technology and Art

Cornhusk Shuttlecock Game

Game image compliments
of Waaban Aki Crafting
A game of shuttlecock, sometimes played with a wooden battledoor, is common among the tribes on the Northwest coast. The Zuni play with shuttlecocks made of corn husks, stuck with feathers, batted with the hand, and a similar object was found in a pre-European cliff-dwelling in the Canyon de Chelly. The game is called kwaitusiwikut among the Piman Natives of Arizona, where the children sometimes amuse themselves by tossing into the air corncobs in which from one to three feathers have been stuck. The Salish Natives of British Colombia and Washington use a battledoor made either with several unpainted slats lashed to a handle or made of a wooden plaque with a handle. The shuttlecock consists of a small piece of twig or a branch, stuck with three feathers. This game was a favorite pastime of the girls and boys. In the Kwakiutl game of 'quemal', two or more usually play; if there are many players, they stand in a ring. They throw always to the right and in front of the body, and the one who lasts the longest without missing wins.

The Zuni Native of New Mexico use shuttlecocks of thick bundles of corn husk, tied around at the top having two to four feathers inserted. A Zuni game called 'Po-ke-an' used green corn husks neatly interlaced and wrapped into a flat square about an inch to two inches square, and on one side are placed two feathers, upright; then, using this shuttlecock and their hand for a battledoor, they try to see how many times they can knock it into the air and they count aloud in their own language - To-pa, quil-e, hi, a-we-ta, ap-ti, etc. Another Zuni game called 'Po-ki-nanane' is so named because the sound produced by the shuttlecock coming into contact with the palm of the hand is similar tot he noise of the tread of the jack rabbit upon the frozen snow.

The game is played as frequently by the younger boys as by their elders, and always for stakes. One bets that he can toss the shuttlecock a given number of times. While ten is the number specially associated with the game, the wagers are often made for twenty, fifty, and sometimes a hundred throws. In the case of a failure the other player tries his skill, each party alternating in the game until one or the other tosses the shuttlecock (only one hand being used for a battledoor) the given number of times, which entitles him to the game.

Play an Interactive Version of Shuttlecock and Battledoor online Here

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