Native American Technology and Art

Cornhusk Wheel & Corncob Dart Game

Natives of different groups have their own special ways to play the Wheel & Dart game, but in all the games a person tosses a dart of some kind at a circular hoop. As in this version of the game, the cornhusk wheel tossed out onto the ground in front of the players, and the people take turns throwing their darts at it. In other versions of the game the hoop is hung from a tree, or the hoop is rolled along the ground, set into motion sometimes by a third player, while the two other players toss their darts as the hoop rolls in front of them. The score depends on how or if the dart falls on or through the hoop.

Game image compliments of Waaban Aki Crafting
Some wheels like this one 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. Other hoops are made by just bending a branch into a circle and tying the ends with rawhide. 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 ingenious darts are made from corncobs, sticks and two feathers. The corncob darts have traditionally been made by the Hopi of Arizona and the Zuni of New Mexico. The corncob is first pierced with a pointed stick a few inches long from one end of the cob. Into the other end of the cob, two wing feathers are inserted into the whole. When this dart is tossed the feathers pull on the air cause the dart to spin like a pinwheel!
Image adapted from "Games of the North American Indian", Culin:1975

Players set a certain number of points to reach, and keep score with a point earned for every time the dart lands inside the wheel. Sometimes the object is not to reach a certain number of total points, but instead the object is for a player to try and acquire all the darts of the other player. Using this method, each player in turn tosses one dart. If one of the player pierces the hoop while the other misses, the player who hit the hoop takes the dart of the player that misses. If both players miss, or both players hit the hoop, they pick up their own darts and each take another turn. This game ends when one player has captured all the other darts.

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© 1994 - Tara Prindle.