Pass It On: Student Shares Hand Games Expertise with Peers

Aveyon may only be in seventh grade, but she has a knowledge and passion for her Lakota culture that far exceeds her years. It is a knowledge and passion she enjoys sharing with others, particularly her peers at St. Joseph’s Indian School.

“I’ve always been that ‘tradish’ (traditional) kid that would go around everywhere telling my friends all the stories that my grandma told me,” said Aveyon.

But this past week, Aveyon didn’t have to go very far to reach her peers. Instead, she had their full attention as she led lessons in hand games in her Native America Studies class at St. Joseph’s Indian School. Hand games are traditional games of chance and have been played in Native American communities for as far back as its origin story.

Aveyon shared her knowledge of hand games by helping teach her peers how to play during her Native American Studies class.

The way the story was told to Aveyon describes a Native woman who lost her husband in battle. Distraught with grief, the woman went away from her village in solitude for one year to mourn him. After the year concluded, the woman returned to her village and saw a group of children playing a game with sticks and bones. She approached them and they taught her how to play. The woman became so good that many other people began to notice. Soon, another team challenged her team to a competition. The winners would get fine war ponies. The widow’s luck continued and her team was victorious, claiming the horses for themselves. Her success led to the villagers creating a song in her honor. It is a song still sung today during hand game competitions.

Listen to the song now in the traditional Lakota language. It describes the widow as being good and strong as the singers request her spirit to help them win the game.

Here, students exchange sticks as one team scores for guessing the correct hands for the marked female bones.

The game includes a set of sticks and bones, rocks or other small items concealable within a hand. One team begins with four bones — two unmarked male bones and two marked female bones. The players conceal the bones in their hands and the other team must attempt to choose the correct hands that hold the female bones. If they’re successful, the guessing team gets the bones back.  If the guessing team guesses a male bone, they forfeit a stick for the incorrect guess. The team who eventually collects all of their opponents’ sticks is named the winner.

Confused? It’s not as complicated as it sounds once you’re actually playing, said Aveyon.

“I was always a fast learner when it came to hand games and the songs. I picked it up right away,” said Aveyon. “You have to be really careful about how you hold your body while you play hand games. Your body sends off slight cues about which hand has the female, so you have to be watchful for those cues and also make sure you’re not giving anything anyway to the other team.”

LaRayne, St. Joseph’s Native American Studies lead, helped describe the rules of the game to the class.

It was that speck of advice and more that she shared with fellow students alongside her teacher, LaRayne. Although this is something LaRayne would normally teach students, she chose Aveyon after the student volunteered to share her knowledge.

“I knew that Aveyon wasn’t shy and would do a good job teaching others,” said LaRayne. “We made a pretty good team working together to create some cultural fun and learning. This girl will make our world a better place. She is respectfully outspoken and is on the road to knowing who she is culturally.”

Students enjoyed playing hand games together, which is ultimately a game of chance.

And Aveyon is willing to take others along on that journey for the greater good.

“To me, it’s important to pass stuff like this on,” said Aveyon. “When I was growing up my grandma would be sharing stories and I’d be wondering, ‘Why are you telling me this?’ because I was just a little kid. But, then I was told our language is dying. Our culture is dying. It’s good to know these things because as we kids keep growing up, we keep our culture alive, and our tradition alive.”

To learn more about the traditions of the Lakota (Sioux) culture, visit stjo.org/culture.

Author: St. Joseph's Indian School

At St. Joseph's Indian School, our privately-funded programs for Lakota (Sioux) children in need have evolved over 90 years of family partnership, experience and education. Because of generous friends who share tax-deductible donations, Native American youth receive a safe, stable home life; individual counseling and guidance; carefully planned curriculum based on Lakota culture and individual student needs and tools to help build confidence, boost self-esteem and improve cultural awareness. All of this helps children to live a bright, productive, possibility-filled future.

11 thoughts on “Pass It On: Student Shares Hand Games Expertise with Peers”

  1. Great work, Aveyon! You are doing an immense service to the rest of the world, keeping the Lakhota Sioux traditions alive, shared and taught. Gently and with grace, letting others know of that great culture that will, thanks to people like you, live forever! Thank you!

  2. I BEN OUT FOR A LITTE BIT WITH A HEART ACC. DO GOOD NOW SO I WILL BE GIVEING
    TO YOU AGAIN I LOVE TO HELP MY BROTHERS I PASS ON THE ER TABLE THEY GOT
    ME BACK SO IF YOU HAVE A BOOK ON GIVIN TO EACH MONTH SEND IT TO ME
    THANKS MR SISSON

    1. We appreciate your support, Mr. Sisson! We hope you are doing well and will say a prayer for returned health. God bless.

  3. Hi Aveyon,
    You are doing a great service to your ancestors by keeping the tradition alive. It is important to keep the tradition alive and keep making it better to integrate into the society where you are living.

  4. Wow, amazing. Thanks for sharing your creativity with us. Keep up the good work and continue to challenge your classmates!!

  5. This was a very important gift from your grandmother and it is wonderful that you are passing it on! Good work and best wishes!

  6. Aveyon, you are a gifted teacher. I plan to share this story and video with my two granddaughters, ages 8 and 5. I was a Jr High teacher and coach form 14 years and a 7-12 principal for 26 years, thus I can appreciate your gifts.

  7. Aveyon, I watched and listened intently to your expertise in showing others your skills at the games of your beloved people. I am so excited for you to have the opportunity there at your school to pass your knowledge on to the rest of the students and teachers as well. Keep it up!

  8. do you take furnter i think i read some were i coude signe it over to you down the road when we
    go home i would for you to hane ever thing i a printer and a pc a big 94 tv and old money watch rings
    send me the docs. to sing mr sisson

    1. Are you asking in terms of leaving some of your possessions to St. Joseph’s in your will?

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