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Children were valued members of Lenape society; they were loved and well cared for. They helped out with family chores, but also had plenty of time to play games that were not just for the purpose of fun. Many games helped them build the skills they would need later in life.

"Lenape men and boys would play together quite often. To test their strength, they wrestled each other, raced, and jumped over obstacles. They also tossed spears through a rolling hoop. A hoop was rolled across the ground, and anyone who speared the hoop received a point. The hoop was then rolled again and the play continued.

"Young girls played house with dolls made from leather, wood, or cornhusks. They also played the cup and pin game (which was also played by boys). In this game of skill, a hollow bone, or a piece of hard leather with a hole through it was tied to the pin with a short string. The bone or leather piece was tossed into the air and the player tried to put the pin through the hole." 4


Jackstraws was also played frequently. This game, similar to pick-up sticks, was played with a bunch of sticks thrown in a pile on the ground. The players tried to lift off as many sticks as possible without moving the other sticks in the pile. When a stick was disturbed by accident, that player stopped and gave another person a turn. The player who picked up the most sticks won the game.


(Rabbit Tail) Game. This used a sharp stick with string tied to the base and some cone-shaped pieces on the string with a rabbit tail tied on the end of the string to keep the cones from coming off. Object is to catch the cones on the stick. Good for agility.


Similar to Jackstraws. Pieces of reed were decorated with various lines and dots (for scoring purposes) and these were dropped onto a surface and then picked up one at a time without disturbing any others.


A dice game. Some dice were placed in a wooden bowl, and it is brought down on a folded hide or blanket to make the dice jump in the bowl. The game is accompanied by sticks or beans for scoring. Dice were usually carved from bone or antler, in some versions plum or peach pits were used. Dice were engraved, burned and polished or painted to distinguish one side from the other when they are tossed.


A spear-like instrument (about 7 feet long) was tossed down a prepared trough in the snow. The trough was prepared the night before and allowed to refreeze so it would be lined with ice. The object was to see who could get it to go the farthest. This may have been adopted from the nearby Iroquois as they also play it."5


Materials: a wooden paper or plastic cup, straight twelve-inch stick, fourteen-inch piece of string, needle/pin. How to make it: Find a straight stick (twelve inches long.) Cut a piece of string fourteen inches long and knot one end. With a needle or pin, make a small hole in the bottom of a paper cup. Then put the thread through the hole (knotted end on the inside of the cup.) Bind the other end of the string around the stick (several times) and tie it tightly. Swing the cup around and try to catch it on the stick.


Pahsahëman is a team sport in which the men play against the women. It is played with a ball that is called pahsahikàn, on a field, which is generally 150 feet long and 60 feet wide. (The field size is not absolute and can be larger if the players desire, but the dimensions given here are the ones usually used.) At either end of the field are trees or posts measuring about 5-6 inches in diameter, 15 feet high, and about 6 feet apart, called goal posts The ball is oblong in shape, about 9 inches in diameter at it fattest point, and traditionally was made of deerskin and stuffed with deer hair. It was laced shut and at the end of the season, if the ball was in good enough condition, the hair was removed and the shell put away for usage next season. The game was played only from March or April (as soon as the weather became good enough to permit play) until mid June. It was considered wrong to play it at other times of the year. It was played in the afternoon. There was no set number of games played...just whatever the people decided.

"The teams had no set number of players, the number being decided by mutual agreement. One team consisted of all men while the other team was all women. Young people could also play, but small children were not allowed to play for fear of them getting hurt.

"The game begins when a selected elder goes to the center of the field and throws the ball straight up into the air. The players jump up and try to knock it towards their own goal posts. The men cannot run with nor pass the ball. They can only kick the ball forward. The women can run with the ball, pass the ball, or kick the ball, if the ball is on the ground, (women can not high kick the ball) forward. If a man intercepts the ball, or catches a kicked ball, he must stand where he is and kick the ball forward. A man cannot tackle or grab a woman, but must feign to prevent the women from passing by him or passing the ball. He may knock the ball from her hands. Women can grab or tackle the men.

"Scoring is accomplished by the women by running, passing, or kicking the ball between the goal posts. The men score by kicking the ball between the goal posts. Score is kept by a selected elder. A pile of 12 sticks, about 2 inches long is used to keep the score. When the women score a point a stick is removed from the pile and placed to the side, when the men score, a stick is removed from the pile and placed to the side as well. In such manner 2 rows of sticks are made, one for the women's score and one for the men's score. When all 12 sticks are gone from the original pile, whichever team has more sticks in their row is the winner. If the score is tied, a 1-point playoff is played to determine the winner.

"An aside to the game: A bet string is passed around the village. A bet string is a long string on which those who wish to bet on a team tie something. If the team the person bet on wins, the person can go and get anything off the bet string that has not already been spoken for." 6 [top]

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