The Ojibwe Moccasin Game is a man’s game. Traditionally, only men were allowed to play the game.
There is a rule that no one is allowed to lay down during the game. The elders strictly enforced this rule, there is no fooling around, there has to be respect for the players and for the game itself. It taught us to lose with dignity, a handshake after every game and to win with as little teasing as possible.
The teams face each other over the playing surface about six feet away from each other. A team requires an absolute minimum of two in order to play. A team can have as many players as it wants; however, in order to give a chance to every team member to play in a tournament, it is usual to have no more than five members per team.
The game origins are shrouded in legends and stories but the reason that four moccasins are used is simple. A game could be played by four people who simply took off their moccasins to use as the hiding mats.
A well equipped team will require the following:
- At least 2 sets of 4 marbles, three of them the same, and one different
- Or you can use steel bearings, one of which is marked. Some prefer using bearings because they don’t have to look at them as they hide, they can feel the marked bearing as it is hidden.
- Previously they would use bullets or even round stones on the shore
- Four Moccasin pads, these can be heavy cloth sewn to about 8 inches by 12 inches, larger or smaller depending on the preference of the player or if the poor guy has no one to sew him a set, he can buy cloth table place mats. In any case, we no longer use real moccasins.
- A long stick about 4 feet long or longer to open the moccasin game pads. Despite the fact that the bush is full of sticks, you still get some teams trying to borrow the other teams “striking stick”. The striking stick shouldn’t be a big thick club, a light willow will do or some guys will get fancy and use cut fishing poles that are taped in various colors.
- 20 counting sticks about 12 inches long. 1/4 inch dowels work the best. They are available at any lumber yard. You can paint them if you want.
- 9 “soldiers” about 4 inches long, 4 one color, 4 another color, and one odd. These are also dowels usually a little thicker than the counting sticks.
- A hand drum, drum stick and a really good singer or two.
For full rules, download the PDF. Moccasin Game
The information contained in this booklet is in the Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation understanding of the Moccasin Game.