Games

Yokuts adults and children liked to play many different games. One favorite game was called the hand game. Each team started with a row of 10-12 sticks. One team passed two small sticks behind them – one was black and one was white. Then all the members of a team held their hands in front of themselves. The other team had to guess which person was hiding the black stick in his hand. If they guessed right, they got to keep the other team’s sticks. The game was over when one team had all of the other team’s sticks.

Children playing the pole and hoop game in a Yokuts village

Children playing the pole and hoop game in a Yokuts village

Shinny was another game the Yokuts liked to play. They used a ball made of an oak burl that was about the size of a tennis ball. They placed the ball on a small mound in the middle of the field. Then each team tried to get the ball into their own goal by hitting it with sticks. It was a very rough game.

A game that the men and older boys liked to play was the pole and hoop game. The purpose of the game was to improve their hunting skills. Two people rolled a hoop back and forth between themselves. As the hoop rolled by, men and boys on the side tried to throw their poles through the hoop. Sometimes the game was played with spears.

Click play to listen to a song that is sung while playing the hand game.  Songs are from Yokuts and Paiute Songs and Culture by Alfred Pietroforte (Naturegraph Publishers, 2005.) Permission to copy for educational use granted by collector/author.

One of the favorite games played by the Yokuts children was called Bear. One child was the bear, and the other children ran from him. When someone was tagged, that person became a bear and helped tag other people. This continued until all the children had been tagged. The last child tagged was the bear for the next game.

–Adapted from research by Mary Ann Brensel