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International Traditional Games Society


The traditional native games were found through oral traditions, ethnology reports written before 1900 A.D., or written descriptions from the early 1900's. These games have been re-discovered and accepted by many tribes over the past 12 years. These games have originated in the following tribes: Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai, Chippewea, Cree, Sioux, White Clay, Little Shell, Pend d'Oreille, and tribes of Southern Alberta. 


In 1999, the International Traditional Games Society was formed by cultural directors, tribal college presidents and spiritual leaders. Since then, a dedicated group of tribal teachers from Alberta, Montana, Idaho, and North Dakota have been re-discovering an almost lost heritage; skills of sensing, observing, and intuition and skills of endurance, strength, and dexterity. We have been introduced to new games over the years, thanks to tribal councils and ceremonies which permit us to share the games with all people. We take great care to ensure the games carry on their historical, cultural significance initiated by tribal bands and clans for thousands of years.



These ancient skills are important to all people:Just like storytelling, values of the culture are infused into the games.  The games teach honor, respect, and responsibility to others - key values that have been lost, as modern society promotes to be "the individual best".  The games address American Indian health from a holistic stance as education is paired with spiritual, mental, and physical survival skills of past


Games Recovery Protocol


Before recovering the traditional Blackfeet games at Browning Middle School, Blackfeet elders and advisors were sought to guide the process. Sweat lodges were held both north and south of the Canadian border to gain permission from the Blackfoot confederacy. At the end of the recovery, 20 games were discovered by middle school students and their teachers, of which the youth presented to 17 Blackfeet elders at the local tribal college. The elders assisted in locating missing information, uncovered the native Blackfeet names for each of the games, and added integral depth to the cultural significance of the games. 


By 1994, the Salish and Kootenai had recovered a few of their games, and there was heated discussion about which tribe had "rights" to certain games. The discussion also unveiled which materials had to be used in the game equipment. It was decided that a "Blanket" would hold the variations of the games in question. For example, this Blanket held Blackfeet equipment along with rules for their version of Shinney as well as Salish equipment and rules for their version of Shinney. Thus the Blanket has continued to be a place where we hold the recovered games, and tribal people from extended locales have brought their cultural games forward to be shared with all people. Games that are ceremonial or hold rules that prevent certain groups of people (men/women/boys/girls/tribes) from playing are not put into the Blanket.


  • Our efforts will resurrect tribal cultural games, knowing that the ancient games were for the youngest to the oldest in each tribe as a means to promote the cultural values, native language, and well-being of the families. 


  • Over twenty-five American Indian games have been revived for their active preservation in native cultural activities at schools and at ceremonial events.


  • The Traditional Games Society has not only brought together families from dozens of American Indian tribes, but also visitors from Korea, Japan, Scotland, Australia, Canada, and U.S. states from California to New York, to participate in the traditional games of North American Indians.


  • The history of this project has shown cooperation between tribes, state, and federal agencies, as well as support from private individuals, foundations, and corporations.


  • An effective community with a common vision was formed in 1997 when cultural directors and tribal college presidents from all seven reservations in Montana and two in Canada directed the formation of I.T.G.S.


  • Children and Elders on many reservations have been involved in the research and resurrection of traditional games.


  • The traditional games have a lasting legacy and influence on those who have become involved in the playing or in the recovery of those old time games: one which seems to carry enthusiasm into families’ lives.


  • Teachers of the traditional games have shared the values of respectful harvesting of wood for game equipment and values of game play with people of all ages.


  • The International Traditional Games have regional, statewide, national, and international appeal and have been represented in the following areas: Browning, Montana (1999-2000, 2009-2013),  Pablo, Montana (2001-2003), Stoney Reserve, Canada (2003), Great Falls, Montana (2004-2005), Fort Belknap, Montana (2006-2007, 2009-2012), and Fort Peck, Montana (2008).


  • The International Traditional Games Society has been recognized through contributions and funding from Montana Arts Council. Montana Committee for the Humanities, Montana Community Foundation, Burlington/Northern Santa Fe Foundation Nat'l Arts Council, Nat'l Park Service, Lewis and Clark Bicenntenial, Council of Tribal Advisors and others for its efforts to bring the traditional games into modern culture for the preservation of native language and to unite families in play as well as ceremonies.


  • Visitors of past traditional games events have commented on how rare it had been to: A. Play and laugh with people of other cultures. B. Join in common ceremony. C. Find something that any culture could research and resurrect for their own families (Celtic, African, German, etc.)


  • The International Traditional Games has shown fiscal responsibility by filing yearly non-profit tax reports and has given final reports to all organizations funding events even though it operates on 100% volunteer efforts. The yearly expenditures have been for payments to cultural teachers sharing their knowledge of the ancient games, for food to feed the guests, for the making of the games equipment, and for the expenses involved in hosting the summer events.

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