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35 Chapter 2 Ethnohistory of the Hoop‑andArrow Game Among the recurrent themes that appear in stories of Old Man’s Playing Ground,in addition to its association with Old Man,is that a game was played there in which arrows were thrown like darts at a rolled hoop.This appears most explicitly in Peter Fidler’s account (HBCA E.3/2, fo. 17), but also in the much later version of the story related to Clark Wissler and David Duvall (1995 [1908]: 24). Similar accounts are ubiquitous among the travelers and adventurers who first explored the shores, and later the interior, of North America. From the bowling greens of the Eno in the Carolinas (Lawson 1714: 57; Lederer 1672: 18) to the gaming places of the Bayogoula and Mugulasha1 at the mouths of the Mississippi (Margry 1880: 261), a game involving a rolled stone disc and tossed spear or pole was known (Figure 2.1). In 1786, on the Monterey coast of California, the Comte de La Pérouse saw a similar game played among the Rumsen on a fence-lined field (La Pérouse 1798: 223).And from the north, delving deep into the heart of the continent via the trading posts of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1792, Fidler visited the site on the banks of the Oldman River. Altogether, scores of accounts of such a game have been reported in the historic and ethnographic records.These come from at least 93 different First Nations across the full breadth of North America, from language families ranging from Muskogean to Na-Dene, and including such isolates as Haida and Zuni (following Campbell 1997, Goddard 1996, and Mithune 1999). Combined, the rules and forms of these games are as varied as the people who played them, but that there is some unifying theme to all of them has long been recognized. In 1886, in his compilation of historic accounts of First Nations gaming traditions,Andrew McFarland Davis wrote, The striking fact remains that this great number of tribes,so widely separated,all played a game in which the principal requirements were, that a small circular disk should be rolled rapidly along a prepared surface and that prepared wooden implements, similar to spears, should be launched at the disk while in motion or just at the time when it stopped [Davis 1886: 40-41]. In 1893, ethnologists Frank Hamilton Cushing and Stewart Culin began adding ethnographic reports, correspondence with contacts across the United States, and fieldwork of their 1. Noted in the anonymous ship’s log of the frigate Le Marin, part of the fleet of Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville, in 1698-99. 36 ETHNOHISTORY OF THE HOOP-AND-ARROW GAME own to Davis’s groundbreaking work.The product of 14 years research, of which Cushing did not live to see the end (Gabriel 1996: 6-7), was Culin’s (1907) Games of the North American Indians.This endeavour still stands as the authoritative source on gaming traditions of every description,including what has come to be known as the hoop-and-pole game (Culin 1907: 420-527). The pioneering work of Davis,Cushing,Culin,and others did not include the historic accounts of exploration of the British North American,and later Canadian,territory to the north.In point of fact,this oversight was through no fault of their own—DavidThompson’s Narrative,covering the years 1784-1812,was not published byToronto’s Champlain Society until 1916 (Thompson 1916), while the complete text of the 1792-93 journal of Peter Fidler did not reach published form until 1991 (Fidler 1991).In consequence,early historic accounts from north of the border about a hoop-and-pole game among such peoples as the Piikáni and Ktunaxa have never been examined within the broader context of regional, or indeed continent-wide gaming traditions. A comparison of Peter Fidler’s account to ethnohistoric records of the hoop-and-pole game among both the Siksikaitsitapi and Ktunaxa reveals that Fidler’s account is actually somewhat enigmatic.While the game itself is familiar to both, Old Man’s Playing Ground does not match descriptions of playing fields used by either of these peoples. Expanding on this comparison, and building on the groundwork laid out in Stewart Culin’s (1907) comprehensive study, the site can be shown to be located near the centre of an area where a specific variant of the hoop-and-pole game was played, involving the use of an...


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