For the Native American people of Southern California, games and gambling were an important part of daily life. There were a number of gambling games which involved dice and games which involved guessing which hand held a marked stick or bone.
In their book The Cahuilla Indians of Southern California, Lowell Bean and Harry Lawton write:
“Games had an active place in Cahuilla society. There were men’s games and women’s games and competition was the principal motive. Moiety played against moiety, lineage against lineage, and individual against individual. To add excitement, bets were placed on the outcome of many games.”
Nearly all of the tribes in California played a kind of hockey called shinny. The game is played with a ball or with a hoop which is propelled by a stick which is curved at one end. The game is essentially a race to see which of two opposing teams can propel its ball or hoop over a course, strike a turning post, and then return to the starting point to put the ball or hoop into a goal hole. From two to five men play on each side and the length of the course is determined by the number of players.
One of the displays in the Riverside Metropolitan Museum in Riverside, California, looks at games and gaming.
According to the Museum display:
“Games were an important part of life for Southern California Native Americans. Young girls were taught to care for their dolls made of tules and played cat’s cradle to prepare their hands for making baskets. Young boys played a game similar to field hockey called shinny. Peon, walnut dice and stick games were played by adults. Today, these games can still be seen at powwows and in Native American celebrations. From games to gaming, casinos are a part of Southern California Native American life.”
Shown above is a late nineteenth century basket bowl with a whirlwind design. In the basket bowl shown above are some Luiseño gambling sticks from the early 1900s. The sticks were used for playing tepanish or peon, a guessing fame in which one player guesses how many sticks are held in another player’s concealed hand. Shown above are some pre-1910 Kumeyaay game sticks. These were used in a gambling game. Shown above is a pre-1925 Luiseño ring-and-pin game. The rings are made from dried gourds.