Native American stick gameNative American Stick Game

Native American tribes throughout the United States have countless longstanding traditions, including a variety of games unique to Native American cultures. One widespread group of similar games traditionally used animal bones as scoring pieces and are commonly known as stick games. The origins of these games predate written history and the different tribes that played them each adopted different sets of rules.

This activity provides the rules for one version of a stick game that you can try playing at home.

For: Two players or two teams

  • 4 popsicle sticks (Stick Dice)
  • 12 toothpicks or stones or coins (or anything to use as point counters)
  • markers

Game Setup

stick game materials design 2 sticks with zigzags, 1 stick with four dots and three lines, and the last stick with 13 dots

  • Setup the game by marking one side of each popsicle stick with each of the designs shown in the picture above. Leave the other side of each stick blank.
  • Two people can play, or two teams can play sitting in lines facing each other. In team play, each player plays against the person sitting across from them.
  • Use the 12 stones or toothpicks for keeping score. Place them in a pile on the floor between the two players or two teams.

stick game scoring rulesHow to Play

  • Hold the four Stick Dice in one hand and drop them to the ground.
  • Count up your score according to the chart to the right. Take the number of point counters equal to the points you earned. Any unlisted combinations earn zero points.
  • Keep tossing the Stick Dice and earning point counters until you throw a toss that counts for zero points. Then it’s the other player’s turn.
  • When players take the point counters from the pile on the ground, players should begin taking them from the other player or team’s pile. The first player (or team) to earn all 12 counters wins the game.

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