lahal (Gambling Game)

About this object

History of use

These game pieces are part of a game called Slahal or lehal in the Chinook jargon (a trade language). In English the game is known as the bone game. It has spread all over western North America and is still very popular today at events which bring together large numbers of people, such as powwows and canoe races. Holm notes that: "Lehal is played with two pairs of bone cylinders, one of each pair plain, the other decorated with an encircling band of black or a design of lines and nucleated circles. A set of counting sticks, usually ten in number, with a specially marked eleventh now called a "kick stick," completes the equipment. The two teams, of from three to a dozen players each, kneel facing each other in parallel lines, each member holding a short baton with which to keep time on a plank that lies on the ground in front of his team. Two players on one team each handle a pair of bones, and one player on the opposing team tries to guess the positions of the two plain bones. Exuberant gambling songs are sung by the team holding the cylinders, while their opponents try to confuse them with feints. Each correct guess wins a pair of bones, each miss loses a counter. When the guesser has won both pairs, his team takes over and the other side guesses. When all the counters are on one side the game is over (1987:40)."

Physical description

Bone or hand game with four plastic 'bones' and 11 wooden counter sticks, in carved wooden stand. The stand (part a) is in a narrow half-moon shape with a carved killer whale on top at each end. Two wolves are painted on the front with a plastic disc inlaid between them as a moon(?). The top curved edge has eleven holes to hold the counting sticks, as well as four larger holes to hold the 'bone' pieces behind. The counter sticks (parts g-p) are all painted in a similar design, except that g-k have red tops, while l-p have black tops. The centre stick ('kick' stick) is larger and has a painted snake wrapping around it diagonally. The 'bones' are white plastic with blue and metal inserts at ends. The two 'male bones' have black dots around their centres.