Lesson Plan

Traditional Anishinaabek
Life Skills and Games

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
30 Minutes
State Standards:
G1.1.1, G2.2.1, G2.2.3, G2.2.5, G4.1.2, G4.1.4, G4.3.2, H1.4.1, W2.1.1

Essential Question

What are the different ways that people learn and transmit information about their culture?


Participants will discover the importance of various life skills and games of the Anishinaabe through hands-on activities. Life skills include the games they play. Games are fun, but they are also important to develop hand/eye coordination and motor skills that are valuable for hunting and chores. Games of chance taught counting and were sometimes used to decide issues that were not easily resolved (should we make camp by the stream or on the hill?).


Life Skills/Games:
*Ring and Pin (similar to the ball and cup game) 
 *Students can make up their own games using natural items (sticks, acorns, leaves,  etc.) or people made items (pens, straws, beads, string, paper, etc.)

Resources/Materials Needed: These items are in a kit that can be checked out from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
-One Ring and Pin demonstration game
-Six tongue depressors.One side with symbols, the other side blank
-Photo(s) of traditional lacrosse game
-Photo(s) of snow snake game
-NPS Flag or Laminated copy of NPS logo.
-Bin of natural items like sticks acorns, acorn caps, etc. Have students bring 2 – 4 items for bin/bag.
-Sticks on the ground from a tree, enough for each student. Have students bring their own.  If not available, use pencils, makers, straws or similar items.  
 -Twine or sting to attach to each stick to make the Ring and Pin Game.



The activities part would be best to do outdoors, or in a large open area. If not, space will need to be made in the classroom for them.


Download Life Skills Journal


Games and recreational activities are a part of life for people of all cultures. The Anishinaabe, the first people of our region, have unique games as part of their heritage that go back hundreds if not thousands of years. When these games were originally invented, their life was very different from their life today. Everything they had came from nature and was made from a plant, animal or stone. There were no stores! Young people your age would have worked on various tasks, but they still found time to have fun.

Transition #1: You are now going to discover some traditional Anishinaabe games and have a “hands-on” opportunity to experience one. * Optional -You will also create your own game using natural items or modern materials.

*One of the most famous games that is part of Anishinaabe heritage is lacrosse. The traditional game is quite different from its modern form. Originally it involved 100 to 1,000 men! It was a rough and tumble affair! (Show photo(s)). Games of this size were usually cultural events. Smaller numbers of participants would play for fun. The Anishinaabe used sticks that were spoon-like and had a circle filled with netting made of deer sinew. Scoring would occur when a ball was tossed through a goal made of poles or goal posts. There was no net. Lacrosse is the oldest recorded game originating from North America.

*Another traditional game is called snow snake.  (Show photo(s)). Played in winter, a large trench is dug out in the snow. A long polished stick is then thrown down the trench. The winner is the one who slides the stick the farthest down the trench. This game is virtually unchanged from hundreds of years ago aside from technology improvements in the stick and digging the trench.

*The stick dice game is a traditional game of chance. Played with six flat sticks, one side is marked with pictographs (symbols like falcons, wolf, beaver, etc.) while the opposite side is blank. The sticks are tossed up and points are scored based on the combinations of the pictographs that show face up. Demonstrate for the group.

*Very common is the Ring and Pin game. It looks deceptively easy, but is harder than it appears. A thin rope or twine is tied to the end of a stick. A slip knot is formed at the end of the rope to make a circle. The rope is flipped up and the ring (circle) gets caught by the stick. The ring can be made smaller as the player improves their catching ability. Demonstrate how to play.

Ring and Pin Activity:Have each student tie twine, string or thin rope onto a stick or similar object like a pencil. They should then make a slip knot that is able to enlarge or shrink the ring (circle). Help out where needed. Have students play! They should start with a larger ring and then shrink it as they get better at catching.

Optional Activity:Using natural items that are provided or gathered from classmates, students will pick a partner(s) and make up their own game. They will share this game with the class. If they want, they may make more than one game.

Transition:These games are fun, but are they useful to Anishinaabek culture in other ways?

Conclusion: Besides being fun, what do you think are some of the benefits of playing these game. Overall perspective- They taught life skills needed to survive. Life skills are positive behavioral adaptations that help a person to deal with the demands and challenges of life. They help them to be productive members of their community.




Lacrosse - historically was a good preparation for warfare. War is organized chaos which reflected the way early lacrosse was played. Sometimes the game would decide an issue between tribes without resorting to war. Also promotes motor skills, precise muscle movements used to perform a specific act like by tossing the ball through the goal. Cultural rituals before the game bonded members. Endurance was also very important since these games could be played all day over a period of days. They needed to be physically fit to survive in the elements.
Snow snake- Digging trench is good practice for digging snow shelters. Your life might depend on it during a bad storm!! Motor skills for sliding the stick. This would be helpful for hunting and fishing.
Stick dice- Counting/math. Another way to decide issues instead of fighting. Life lesson that things are sometimes out of your control.
Ring and Pin- Hand/eye coordination, useful in association with spear fishing and hunting. Concentration, patience.All of these benefits are relevant today as they were in the past with the exception of the war related benefits of Lacrosse.



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Last updated: May 14, 2021