Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Game pieces

manigaunnat “gambling pieces”
Language: North Slope Iñupiaq

The pieces would fall. When they fall, some of them are laid on the side, others land standing up. You win by the number of pieces that have tipped over, signifying that they’re dead. The ones standing up like this are the birds that get away. So the more pieces that are down, you win.

—Ronald Brower, Sr., 2002

Small ivory carvings of loons, ducks, and swans were pieces for a gambling game played by Inuit peoples from Siberia to Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Each player threw the birds down in turn, and they could land upright or on their sides. Tipped-over birds were “dead” and depending on local rules, their number determined either the winner or loser of the game.

Culture: Iñupiaq
Region: Northwest Alaska
Village: Point Barrow
Object Category: Toys, games
Dimensions: Length 3.8cm (head to tail)
Accession Date: 1920
Source: Museum Purchase
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 099872.000