The Inuit have always enjoyed a variety of games and sports. Skills developed by these games were often those necessary for everyday survival in the harsh environment. Thus, the games concern physical strength, agility, and endurance. Many Inuit games are traditional and require no equipment. Some traditional games may have been learned in Asia before the Inuit migrated across the Bering Strait (c. 2000 B.C.), while others were undoubtedly learned after migration, through contact with southern Aboriginal peoples who had migrated at an earlier time from Asia into the Western hemisphere.
The Inuit have always enjoyed a variety of games and sports. Skills developed by these games were often those necessary for everyday survival in the harsh environment. Thus, the games concern physical strength, agility, and endurance. Many Inuit games are traditional and require no equipment. Some traditional games may have been learned in Asia before the Inuit migrated across the Bering Strait (c. 2000 B.C.), while others were undoubtedly learned after migration, through contact with southern Aboriginal peoples who had migrated at an earlier time from Asia into the Western hemisphere.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

This is a version of the standard European row game known as Three Man Morris and in North America known as Tic-Tac-Toe. The board is brownish leather with rounded corners. Nine squares are stencilled on the surface in black. Each square features a stylized design of an animal reminiscent of various Inuit stonecuts. A leather thong is included in the box, to be used to tie the board together when it is rolled up. Six pieces of antler horn are included for use as playing pieces. On three pieces, animal designs are stencilled in black, and on the other three, similar designs are stencilled in red. Players each place one of the pieces anywhere on the board, alternating their actions. The winner is the one who first gets their three pieces in a vertical, diagonal, or horizontal row.
This is a version of the standard European row game known as Three Man Morris and in North America known as Tic-Tac-Toe. The board is brownish leather with rounded corners. Nine squares are stencilled on the surface in black. Each square features a stylized design of an animal reminiscent of various Inuit stonecuts. A leather thong is included in the box, to be used to tie the board together when it is rolled up. Six pieces of antler horn are included for use as playing pieces. On three pieces, animal designs are stencilled in black, and on the other three, similar designs are stencilled in red. Players each place one of the pieces anywhere on the board, alternating their actions. The winner is the one who first gets their three pieces in a vertical, diagonal, or horizontal row.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Photograph of an "Arctic Hunt" game

The game 'Arctic Hunt' is a version of the standard European row game known as Three Man Morris and in North America known as Tic-Tac-Toe. The equipment comes in a colourful box 4.3cm long x 9.5cm wide x 10.2cm high featuring two Inuit dressed in winter parkas playing the game in the snow. Printing on the box is in both English and French.

Yellowknife, NWT

© 1966 Yellowknife, NWT


The "blanket" for the game of "Blanket Toss" is usually made from seal or walrus skins and thus it can withstand the pounding that results every time a player lands back on it after a "toss". The game is often played in rounds - the winner is the player who bounces the highest.

"Blanket Toss" is a game often played at festivals and other Inuit celebrations and is reminiscent of non-Inuit contests that use a trampoline.
The "blanket" for the game of "Blanket Toss" is usually made from seal or walrus skins and thus it can withstand the pounding that results every time a player lands back on it after a "toss". The game is often played in rounds - the winner is the player who bounces the highest.

"Blanket Toss" is a game often played at festivals and other Inuit celebrations and is reminiscent of non-Inuit contests that use a trampoline.

© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Blanket Toss Game

The "blanket" for the game of "Blanket Toss" is usually made from seal or walrus skins. The photograph was taken in Canada in the Northwest Territories in 1978, and illustrates the Holman Island version of the game, which is called Nalukauq.

Canadian Museum of Civlization
c. 1978
Northwest Territories, CANADA
© 2009, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Drawing

This lithograph titled "Qumuaqataijut" is by Soroseelutu Ashoona, Cape Dorset, 1976.

Soroseelutu Ashoona
West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative, Cape Dorset, Nunavut.

© 1976 West Baffin Eskimo Cooperative, Cape Dorset, Nunavut.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe the origin and nature of Inuit games
  • Describe two Inuit games including rules of play, and necessary materials: the Arctic hunt and the blanket toss, and relate both games to activities found in other cultures

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