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Mojave Desert Indians - Historic Desert Indian Territories Map:
Indian Culture
(Owens Valley Paiute, Tubatulabal, Western Mono, Yokuts)


All the tribes of the Sequoia Park region were inveterate gamblers and it is very probable that a museum collection will contain a number of gaming implements.

Hand game. This is so widely distributed in the west that it is clearly a very ancient pastime. As elsewhere, 4 pieces were employed, being hidden in the hand. The Owens Valley people used 8 counters. The Yokuts made the gaming pieces of wood, bone, or cane, the Great Basin Shoshoneans generally of bone, preferably swan. (For description of method of play and details, see Kroeber, 1925:539 and Steward, plate 6-d. For an illustration of Yokuts hand game and counters, see Culin, fig. 382. For the Western Mono, see Culin, figs. 406, 407, pp. 310-311.) Owens Valley people played a similar game, hiding the pieces under a basket.

Dice. This typically woman's game (in Owens valley) employed 8 dice. These were made of split cane about 10 to 16 inches long, having one face painted red; the Yokuts used 6 or 8 split elder-wood or cane dice, having designs burned in, or 6 half shells of nut or acorn filled with pitch or asphalt. The dice game seems to be of Shoshonean origin. (Kroeber, 1925:540; Steward, 1933: 286-7. For illustrations of Yokuts cane and walnut shell dice, see Culin, fig. 160, 161. For Western Mono acorn cup dice and basketry tray, see Culin, figs. 202, 203, p. 166.)

Hoop and Pole. This was of unusual importance among both Yokuts and Owens Valley people, being played with a small, buck skin covered hoop (Owens Valley sometimes used a willow ring) and a pole or spear of willow. (Kroeber, 1925:539; Steward, 1933:287) (For illustration of the Yokuts implements, sea Culin, fig. 633, and for a similar game in which a peg is used, see Culin, fig. 634. The Western Mono also used the peg, Culin, p. 498, fig. 652.)

Ball race. Balls were propelled over a course with bats by racing contestants. (See Kroeber, 1925:539; Steward, 1933:287.) The Yokuts ball and racket are illustrated by Culin, fig. 767; Culin fig. 902, also illustrates 2 buckskin covered balls that mere kicked over a course in a race (p.679). A Yokuts variant of the last is one in which women threw a hoop.

Hockey or shinney. Varieties of this were played on both sides of the Sierra, the Yokuts using a ball (see illustration in Culin, fig. 811.) the Paiute using a rag or ball, and both peoples using a kind of primitive shinney or lacrosse stick. The Western Mono also played this. (Kroeber, 1925;538-9; Steward, 1933:387; Culin, p. 617, 635 and figs. 822, 823.) A related Paiute game is that in which sides struggle to kick a buckskin-covered ball over goal lines at opposite ends of the field (Steward, 1933:287). This, with variations, was played by the Western Mono. (Culin, p. 704.)

Snow snake. This game, employing heated stone balls, was played by the Yokuts and Western Mono. (Culin, 714, and fig. 934.)

Arrow games. The Yokuts and Owens Valley Paiute each had a variety of these. (See Kroeber, 1925:539; Steward, 1933:287-8.)

In addition, there was foot racing and wrestling.

Toys. The bull roarer was used on both sides of the Sierra. (See Steward, 1933; Kroeber, 1925:509. For Yokuts tops, see Culin p. 741 and fig. 985. Culin, p. 760 and fig. 1030 illustrates a western Mono device for flipping mud balls. On p. 756 and in figs. 1017, 1018, Culin also illustrates a bone whirligig and a buzz used by Western Mono children.)

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Tribal Distributions
Weapons, Houses, Clothing
Other Weaving
Musical Instruments & Misc.
Social Organization
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