Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Gambling sticks

There’s drumming going on continually the whole time they’re playing…They’ll play it for hours. It’s really hypnotic; I mean you won’t even be able to take your eyes away.

—Rosita Worl, 2005

A fast-paced gambling game played with polished, painted sticks was popular throughout southeast Alaska and the northern coast of British Columbia. Chief Sheiyksh (or Shakes) VI of Wrangell may have owned this set of 66 sticks, which were kept in a caribou-skin bag. The unique design on each stick represents a dragonfly, seagull, killer whale, wolf, bear, raven or other creature. Players shuffled the sticks under shredded cedar bark and opponents guessed the location of the “bait” or “devilfish” stick. The rules of play varied from place to place.

Culture: Tlingit
Region: Southeast Alaska
Village: Klukwan
Object Category: Toys, games
Dimensions: Length 13cm
Accession Date: 1907
Source: George T. Emmons (collector)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 012533.000