February 23 to March 10, 2021 ribbon Canada Winter Games 2007
Dene hand games
2007, March 7th:
Hand Games, also known as Stick Gambling, had a significant place in the large trade and summer gatherings of the First Nations people of the Yukon and British Columbia , and the Dene of the Northwest Territories. Teams of up to 30 players each played around the clock, sometimes for two or three days at a time, for highly valued but rare goods, such as tobacco and matches.

Hand Games is a game of cunning and deception, requiring the captain of each team to guess the location of tokens in the hands of members of the opposing team. Players are eliminated from play when the opposing captain guesses correctly. Counting sticks are won when the opposing captain makes an incorrect guess. Play continues and alternates between teams until one team has all the sticks in their possession.

What makes Hand Games so engaging is that players move to a drum beat, and try to fool the opposing captain with distracting movements and facial expressions. The pace of the game is fast, and guesses are communicated through a series of elaborate hand signals that require considerable skill to read.

“The Hand Games are hard to describe – you have to see the players in action in order to understand and feel the cultural experience around these games, “ says Teena Dickson, Traditional Games Advisor and Community Relations Manager for the CWG Host Society.

Experience the drama of Hand Games yourself on Wednesday, March 7 at 2:00 at ATCO Place. Don’t expect it to be an all night affair on this occasion though – the rules have been adapted to limit the number of players on each team to four and to allow for shorter rounds of play. The Hand Games you will see may be smaller and shorter than traditional play, but will be no less captivating for players and spectators alike.