Traditional Games-Tchung-kee

drawing of traditional game
Rare Book Division, The New York Public Library. "Mandan. Game of Tchung-kee. ..." The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1850.
Tchung-kee (chun-kee), a game of skill using a ring and pole, was played on a special field constructed outside of the villages where the ground was smoothed and packed hard for a distance of about 50 yards.

Played by Mandan and Hidatsa men and boys – the game was likely observed and possibly played by the Corps in the early Spring of 1805.

Play begins when two competing players (one from each team) trot side-by-side, each carrying two tchung-kee poles, which have bunches of feathers or leather strips tied onto them at regular intervals.

One of them rolls out ahead a little ring of two-or-three inches in diameter, cut from stone. As the stone rolls, each player tosses a tchung-kee along the ground, trying to spear the stone through its center hole. Points were awarded for the “deepest” catch, as measured by the feathers or leather strips.

The last player to receive points rolls the ring for the next round. If neither player caught the stone on his pole, the one who came closest was considered the winner and got to throw the stone.

In 1832-33, artist George Catlin witnessed the game and created this sketch. He wrote, “the game is a beautiful athletic exercise, which they seem to be almost unceasingly practicing whilst the weather is fair and they have nothing else to demand their attention.”

Source: “Games of the North American Indians, Vol. 2” by Stewart Culin

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

Last updated: December 30, 2019