Dice or Plum Stone (Cree)


  • Introduction

This is a Cree game. The Cree live in the central plains of North America, both in the U.S. and across the Canadian border, up into Saskatchewan. Some Cree have French heritage, and they will sometimes be called Métis (mixed heritage, French/Cree).

This game involves the redistribution of goods or sharing. It was not considered gambling, although Europeans who saw it played perceived it that way.  Tribes that came together to play this game sometimes brought goods with them that would be won or lost to the other players. In the end, almost all goods stayed in the community, although they might travel from family to family.

It is a game of intuition and chance, but it also involves some manual dexterity and skill at shaking and flipping the dice in a basket.  The more it is played, the more the players come to understand how to maneuver the bowl, how to place the dice in the bowl, and how to toss them for the most effective result. For instance, one strategy is to not toss them much above the brim of the basket.

  • Game instructions

A shallow, flat-bottomed basket (perhaps 10 inches across and 3 inches deep) will have five decorated dice (carved or decorated wooden rounds) or plum stones (historically) placed in it.  Three of the dice will have white on one side and black on the other.  Two of the dice will have a cross on one side and a crescent moon on the other.

Two players or two teams can play this game.  Counters (sticks) help the players keep score. The basket is shaken and the dice are tossed up into the air and caught again in the same basket.  The resulting pattern of the dice is very important, Players who get three white dice and two moons or two crosses earn three sticks.  Players who get three black dice and two moons or two crosses earn two sticks.  Players who get three white dice, one moon, and one cross, or three black dice, one moon, and one cross, earn only one stick.

The sticks go in the center of the group at the beginning, and as players earn sticks, they draw from the original pile. Teams can also draw from each other until one team has all the sticks. The game might be started with twenty counters (twenty sticks), and once one team has all twenty sticks, the game is won.

  • Images of the game

©Photo by Dr. Stephanie Wood

©Photo by Dr. Stephanie Wood

©Photo by Tom W. Smith