- from Native America
For Native Americans, play is serious business.
Games and sports are often played in a sacred way to benefit the whole tribe. A game might be played to honor the dead or to gain favor with spirits. It also might be played to heal illnesses, to gain favorable weather, or to change an unwanted situation.
In the past, games also provided training for the important jobs of hunting and warfare. In addition, games strengthened the social ties of a tribe. Not just because they were open to all members, but also because most games were team sports that stressed the value of cooperation.
Native American games fall into two major categories: games of chance and games of skill. Gambling was a key element of games of chance. Far from undercutting the spiritual nature of the game, gambling actually boosted a game’s sacred purpose. According to an Iroquois teaching, the purpose of a game of chance was to remind players that the things around them did not belong to them, but rather to the world. Playing a game and taking the chance of losing material possessions sends a message to the Creator that one is grateful for the use of things and willing to share them with others. Despite their spiritual and social significance, however, games are also fun. Come join Native Americans—at play.