Make the Stick Jump (Blackfeet)


  • Introduction

To obtain the sticks for the playing of this game, the Blackfeet cut a willow switch in the woods in spring. When a switch is cut, the plant much be honored or thanked. A gift, such as a small piece of food or tobacco, is placed in the ground near the plant.

This is a game for playing outdoors.  Players develop hand-eye coordination as they throw handmade balls, bean bags, or rocks at the sticks to knock them over (“make them jump”). This is a game that is helpful for learning to hunt birds or small game. Young players will also be practicing their mental addition skills as they keep track of their points.

The game is usually played with five sticks, but this can be modified to three or four sticks. Sticks are decorated with beads and feathers.

  • Game instructions

At the start of the game, the sticks are put in the ground point side down, and up to six feet apart, all in a line stretching away from the point from which the players will be throwing.Each stick will have one or more rings carved in it, as a remind of the number of points it is worth if it is knocked over. The nearest stick will have one ring cut into its bark.  The next farthest out will have two rings, and so on. The objective will be to knock down the sticks in a row, from lowest to highest points.  The first stick gives one point, the second gives two points, and so on.  One cannot knock down the third stick before the second stick is knocked down, or the fourth stick before the third, or the fifth stick before the fourth is knocked down.

Players may play as individuals in competition with one another, or there can be two teams.  Players will agree upon the winning number of points prior to the start of the competition. Players will also agree upon the number of bean bags or rocks they can use before it is the other team’s turn to have a go at it.

To increase safety when playing with children, do not use rocks for throwing at the sticks, and have an adult handle the pointed sticks that are being inserted into the ground.

  • Images of the game

©Photo by Dr. Stephanie Wood

©Photo by Dr. Stephanie Wood

©Photo by Dr. Stephanie Wood

©Photo by Tom W. Smith