Seneca (Haudenosaunee, Iroquois) 

Snowsnake stick

  • About 1931
  • Lead and wood
  • 36 1/4 × 13/16 in.

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Gift of Roland B. Sundown, Class of 1932; 31.3.5090

visibilityLook & Discuss

Toys and games made for Woodlands children not only entertained them, but also taught them something about the roles they would assume as adults, and helped them practice important skills. 

Explore the Object

A snowsnake is a type of toy used in a winter sport of the same name played by teams of men and boys in many northern native communities. Teams compete against each other by throwing this long, spear-like stick down the length of a snow track, which is built up from the ground. The team that throws its stick the farthest wins the game. 

The name snowsnake comes from the way the stick looks as it travels down the track—it slithers like a snake. This type of snowsnake is called a mudcat. It is about 3 feet long. Another types of snowsnake, called a longsnake, is seven feet long. Strength and concentration are important qualities to win the game. Each team, called a corner, is allowed a limited number of throws. Each player coats his stick with a special wax that makes it slick and fast. The best players can throw a stick more than a mile down the track! Long ago, snowsnakes were also used for communication. They were thrown along frozen rivers and lakes to deliver messages between winter camps.

How might playing this game help a young boy learn to be a better hunter or warrior?

Northeast Woodlands: Gender Roles & Family