Congratulations to all participants in the Lahal Tournament at Nicola-Canford school October 28th. Job well done!
Lahal, is a traditional game of First Nations people. It is a guessing or a gambling game that involved two teams seated across from one another.
The purpose of playing is to bring people together or to bring back happiness and lift the spirits and hearts of others. The game is played on many occasions such as celebrations and gatherings. Traditionally it was played after funerals.
Small logs about four to six inches in diameter and about 10 feet long were used to beat with sticks and sung to. Drums were rarely used. Rattles, horns and drums are used to play the game today.
Songs that are sung pertained to the bands, or family, and some are borrowed from another band by way of asking. Due to the historic suppression of cultural ways the game of Lahal was almost lost. It has since been restored due to cultural prominence.
The game always starts with an open traditional game where the men play against the women. The prizes played for could be anything that is of special value or many different traditional items. Examples of such things could be purses, game sets, scarves, etc. In the historic times prizes could be valuables such as horses, and trade items. This differs quite a bit from the present day prizes, which include money, televisions, and many modern accoutrements.
Traditionally, there was no time limit. For instance, some games can last up to one and a half hours. Some games were played for high stakes and could last for several days. In these serious games a judge would sometimes be appointed to keep the contest fair. (Our tournaments have a 20 minute time limit).
Lahal is played with two teams of six or more players. The object of the game is to get all the sticks from the opposing team. There are five sticks on each side and a kick stick to start off the game.
Each team has what is called a Doctor (captain). He calls the shots. For example, he decides who will be the “shooter”- the player who guesses where the white bones are. Doctors of the two teams play off for the Kick Stick (Extra Stick). The kick stick is worth two points and can be used when one team has lost all of their other game sticks and only has the kick stick left. Otherwise the Doctors have played to “take out” the game stick.
Four bones are used in the game are made of antler or bone. They are usually small enough to fit securely in the hand and not be noticeably different except in color. The bones are either white or marked with a stripe.
Drumming and singing with your team helps distract the opposing team.
One team (Team A) starts with the two pairs of bones. Two players on Team A hide the bones in their hands and hold them out to Team B. The shooter on Team B, using special hand signals, guesses where the white bones are.
There are 4 ways of pointing: the teams are opposite and facing each other the team pointing will have the opposite direction in which to point. The “shooter” needs to hold the pointing stick while shooting, and can use the stick or the hands to shoot.
If the “shooter” points to his left, the players on opposing team with the bones open their right hand. If the Shooter points right then the players on opposing side opens their left hand. The shooter can point “down the middle” and the players with the bones would open the inside hands. The shooter can make a motion to point to the “outside” and the players would open their outside hands.
Sticks, and the right to hold the bones, are won or lost depending if the shooter’s guess is right or wrong. When the Shooter points and guesses both white or plain bones then both bones would come back to his team and his team could sing and hide the bones. If the shooter only guesses one plain or white bone then he would pass a stick to the opposing players’ captain. If the shooter points and guesses both striped bones. Then his team would have to give two sticks over to the opposing teams’ captain. The game ends when one team has won all the sticks from the other team. When down to the Kick stick, the Captain is to do the shooting. The winning team is to get up and shake the opposing teams’ hands.
When you are ready to show the bones, you cannot change it, otherwise you forfeit the bones to the other team. Once you bring your hands out, they have to stay out until the shooting is done. The bones need to be displayed clearly after the shooter makes the guess before they are put into one hand. You cannot go from one team to the other, but must play on one team only.
For the purposes of our tournament, there will be a 20 minute time limit per game. The team with the most sticks at the end of 20minutes wins. There is also 1 minute maximum for hiding and pointing the bones.
Some teams have their own bones, which they believe are lucky. A game can also be forfeited if, when the pointer points, the opposing team member is holding two bones in one hand.
The team that has control of the bones is the team that sings their stick game song(s). So it is up to the players to stay focused on the game.
Rules and methods have changed throughout the years but the game is still a favorite amongst First Nations people.
Tips for playing Lahal:
Play the game like your playing the best team of all the time;
Watch the other team carefully to see where they are keeping the bones;
Do not get distracted by the other team for they will yell, point, or make other body gestures to try and take control;
If you are not playing the first game learn to observe where the bones are hidden, and choose the one that is not marked;
Even if you do not know the songs you should still participate.
Try it and have fun while you learn.
Basic Lahal Rules – For School District Tournament
- Use Pointing Stick only – NO Finger Pointing
- Can only hold off with LAST Stick
- Game Stick is only worth 1 Point
- If the Pointer misses the Other Team gets a stick until the other team wins both sets of Bones
- If there is a tie when game time is up … the 2 Captains get a set of bones and call each other
- After each game Team Leader will appoint a NEW CAPTAIN…