Native American Entertainment

Native Americans enjoyed sports and games just like everyone else. They spent a lot of their time growing crops and hunting, but they enjoyed their free time. We know, from accounts of Europeans, that Native Americans played a variety of games. They also enjoyed music, and entertained themselves with a number of different instruments.

Virtually all native tribes played a kind of stickball. Some tribes even included a stickball field into their villages. They used a small ball, roughly the size of a tennis ball. The ball was tossed into the air, and then numerous players chased it and attempted to hit it with sticks. Even women played this game, and some histories record how rough the female players were. A stickball game could become very large, with dozens or even hundreds of people playing. Sometimes people even bet on the outcome of the game!

Many tribes played a kind of handgame. This involved two players hiding bones or sticks under their hands, shifting them back and forth. The other team has to guess where the bones and sticks are. This game was not only played for fun. Apparently the game was used to gain land, horses, or cattle. It may have even been used to get a wife!

Whatever games Native Americans played, it seems that entire villages participated. They were not strictly for children. Even elderly family members played games. It also appears that betting on games was commonplace.

Music was also widely played for entertainment. European accounts of their encounters with Native Americans often describe enthusiastic music-playing. Drums were widely used as were rattles. Rattles were often made of dried gourds, then filled with things like small rocks or seeds to make noise. Native Americans also made rattles to wear on the body. These were made by stringing shells or animal hooves onto a cord, which would then be worn around the ankle or wrist.

Wind instruments, such as whistles, were also widely played by Native Americans. These were often made from wood, reeds, or hollowed bones. Archaeologists have found many carvings and cave drawings of people playing flute-like instruments. This tells us that it was a popular instrument for Native Americans.


Things to Remember:

  • Native Americans enjoyed their free time, playing games and musical instruments.
  • Games often involved all members of a village, even the elderly!