Slahal (Lahal) is the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast gambling game known as stickgame, bonegame, bloodless war game, handgame, or a name specific to each language. It is played throughout the western United States and Canada by indigenous peoples. The name of the game is a Chinook Jargon word. The name bone game comes from the fact that the bone sets historically used were the shin bones from the foreleg of a deer or other animal.
The game is played with two opposing teams. There are two sets of "bones", and two sets of sticks (10 sticks per team during aboriginal times, but in modern times usually played with 5 sticks per team) and a "kick" or "king" stick -- an extra stick won by the team who gets to start the game (in some areas a kick stick is not used). When a game is in play, one of the two teams will have two sets of "bones", shown above. When your team is guessing, your objective is to get the right bone, the one without the stripe. When you have the bones, your objective is to make sure the other team guesses wrong on the bones set. When the other team guesses wrong, you gain a point. When a team has the two sets of bones, two separate individuals will hide the bones and swap them around from hand to hand (each person has a striped and non-striped bone). Eventually the bones are brought forward, but are concealed as to not show the other team what one has a stripe on it. The game is usually accompanied by drumming and singing used to boost the morale of the team. The side that has the bones sings, while the other tries to guess. The musical accompaniment is also sometimes used to taunt the other team. Gambling could be done by players, or spectators of a match, placing bets on teams, or individual matches within the game between one guess and the other team's bone hiders.
Oral histories indicate that slahal is an ancient game, dating to before the last ice age. In the Coast Salish tradition, the Creator gave stickgame to humanity as an alternative to war at the beginning of time. Thus the game straddles multiple roles in Native culture -- it is at once entertainment, a family pastime, a sacred ritual and a means of economic gain (through gambling). These juxtapositions are sometimes difficult to comprehend for the Western mind, but to many members of the Native community they are woven together effortlessly as a harmonic whole.
- Burke Museum in Seattle Washington - Slahal Set from Puget Sound. Retrieved February 19th, 2008.
- Hill-tout, Charles. "Salish People: Volume II: the Squamish and the Lillooet". Talonbooks, 1978. ISBN 0-88922-149-9
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