Influences of Gaming on Mi'kmaq Culture During the Late Woodland Period

Author(s): Kevin Leonard

Year: 2015


About A.D. 1320, the bones of ten people were cremated in an ossuary on Canada's east coast. Grave offerings recovered from the eroding site in 1990-91 included fragments of tiny, calcined bone rods and charred plum pits with smoothed surfaces. They are interpreted as parts of a gaming set that probably included a shallow wooden bowl and a small bag to hold the dice, still used by members of the Mi’kmaq First Nation to play waltes. Although game sets were traditionally a woman’s property, 17th century observers reported wives being wagered and lost in waltes matches. Overlap of the dice and bowl game with cord-wrapped stick decorated, shell tempered pottery in part of northeastern North America suggests waltes contributed to intergroup mobility for women. Consequently, their knowledge of plant management could spread in concert with certain plant species they carried with them. Intra-band waltes gambling fostered economic leveling, maintaining the status quo in an egalitarian society. At a personal level, the waltes bowl was imbued with magical powers and was used for divination by 19th century Mi’kmaqs. At the individual, group and intergroup levels, waltes helped to shape culture during the Late Woodland period in the Northeast.

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Cite this Record

Influences of Gaming on Mi'kmaq Culture During the Late Woodland Period. Kevin Leonard. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 394868)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -80.815; min lat: 39.3 ; max long: -66.753; max lat: 47.398 ;