Reinventing the Wheel Game: Intergroup Trade on the Plains/Plateau Frontier
Author(s): Gabriel Yanicki
In Piikáni oral tradition, the namesake of southern Alberta’s Oldman River is a place in the Rocky Mountains where Napi, or Old Man, taught the various nations how to play itsewah (lit. ‘wheel game’) as a way of making peace. In the centuries since, travellers, adventurers, and scholars have recorded several accounts of Old Man’s Playing Ground and of the hoop-and-arrow game that was played there; this gaming tradition is shared by peoples on either side of the continental divide, with gambling usually accompanying it. Stories of the wheel game being played as an alternative to warfare reaffirm the observation made by authors such as Bill Brunton and Marshall Sahlins that gambling games are associated with high social and kinship distance; they thus offered otherwise hostile groups a peaceful mechanism for intergroup trade. When oral tradition, history, ethnography, and an archaeological assessment of the playing ground’s most probable location—a floodplain scoured and rebuilt by floodwaters of the Oldman—are brought together, the locale can be understood as a nexus for cultural interaction and trade, through the medium of gambling and games, on the natural frontier between peoples of the Interior Plateau and Northwest Plains.
SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit http://www.tdar.org/SAA2015 for instructions and more information.
This Resource is Part of the Following Collections
- Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015) •
- Games People Play: Prehistoric Games of Indigenous North Americans
Cite this Record
Reinventing the Wheel Game: Intergroup Trade on the Plains/Plateau Frontier. Gabriel Yanicki. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 394869)
min long: -142.471; min lat: 42.033 ; max long: -47.725; max lat: 74.402 ;