Snow Snake Games
Snow Snake Games

 

Koasek Traditional Band of the Sovereign Abenaki Nation
Email:  Koasek@yahoo.com.
Website: http://www.CowasuckAbenaki.com

Snow Snake Games

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1st Snow Snake Games - Randolph Vermont

17 February 2007 Winter First Snow Snake Game after 300 years

 

 

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2nd Snow Snake Games - Woodville, New Hampshire

February 2009 – Town recreation field in back of town hall

Event canceled too late from heavy snow fall and high winds. One tribal member showed up and the record stated jokingly that he won the games.

 

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3rd. Annual Snow Snake Games – Thetford, Vermont

American Legion Hall & Thetford School Grounds Across the Street.

Saturday February 2010

Over 50 members attended the tribal council meeting and games including a great Pot Luck Lunch.

 

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4rd  Annual Abenaki Snow Snake Games

 

Nathan Pero’s Home, Fairlee, Vermont

 

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

 

This year the Koasek Traditional Band of the Sovereign Abenaki Nation held their fifth annual snow snake games on February 19, 2011 at the home of tribal council member Nathan Pero in Fairlee, VT.  In past years we battled with snow that was too deep and extremely cold temperatures and this year we dealt with blustery winds, but that did not stop people from coming out. This year’s games were very well attended as we played host to citizens from the Nulhegan Band of Abenaki, the El Nu Tribe of Abenaki, the Antaya Nation of Quebec as well as students from UVM’s anthropology class, local citizens and Antropologist John Moody, and members of the Grey Wolf Clan of Rumney NH.

 

The games got off to a late start as a number of guests got lost on their way and due to the wind storm there was no phone service or electricity for the first few hours.  While we waited for the games to begin everyone joined in for some drumming and singing lead by Nulhegan Chief Don Stevens and we all enjoyed a great pot luck lunch with a large array of food. The Snow Snake games themselves were a great success as Koasek Chief Brian Chenevert started off the games with an excelent throw.  The children went next and non-stop laughter could be heard as they took a turn throwing their snakes down the path. The children proudly stood their snow snake in the side of the snow snake path wherever their snake stopped hoping the next thrower would not beat their mark. A dozen or so extra snow snakes were made available for those guests that did not have their own snakes to throw. 

The adults went next and the longest throw of the day and the winner for this year’s event was El Nu citizen Anthony Longtoe who received a jug of maple syrup from the Pero Farm. The most memorable throws of the day were from VCNAA chairman Luke Willard who had a hard time keeping his snake on the track and received a good amount of friendly teasing from the other participants lead by his children! The afternoon was then completed with desert of maple syrup on snow served by the Pero Family.  It was a great day of socializing and fun had by all.

 

  

 

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5 Th. Annual Snow Snake Games
 

At Chief Nate's Home, Fairlee, Vermont  Saturday Feb 11, 2012

 

We hope that you can mark your calendar and attend our friendly and fun filled day of food and activities. We are the first Tribe to bring this ancient Abenaki game back and our proud to extend our invitation to all our friends, family, and other tribes. This is our fifth year and each year it gets bigger and better. Please wear warm clothing. And don’t forget to bring your Snow Snake or just come to visit.
A Pot Luck lunch will be served at noon with games to fallow.
Sogalimelesess to the winner of Girls, Boy's, and Lady's and Men.


Directions to Snow Snake Games
Follow the Snake signs. (Black body with a red head on a white board 6" x 16")


From the south US Rt. 5 West on VT 113 in East Thetford, past
intersection with I-91, continue over Thetford Hill, through Thetford Center
Village, next village of Post Mills turn right onto VT 244. 1.6m, Lake Fairlee will
be on your right. Take 2 ND. left. Middle Brook rd. 4.6 miles, right, up the hill,
Blood Brook Rd. .4 m. take a right into my drive.


Coming from Chelsea turn East on Rt. 113 to Post Mills. ( Fallow above. )


Coming out of Orford N H. South on US 5 to Rt. 244, right for 3 m. long
sweeping turn, Blood Brook Rd. is right, 3.6 m. my house is on the left.


From the north on US 5, turn west on VT Rt. 25, (Bradford) under I-91,
continue .7 m. left onto South Rd. 200 ft. turn left onto Rowell Brook Rd. at the Y
bear left, over the top of the land, then down into valley, 5.4 m. turn left up the
hill, .4 m. Blood Brook Rd.


Coming from Central Vt. US Rt. 302 east out of Barre, right onto Vt. Rt. 25
to Bradford. South Road will be on your right.


If using Map Quest or GPS, DO NOT GO THRU BRUSHWOOD.

(Class 4 rd, snow mobile trail.)
 

Nathan E. & Sherryl  Pero 3649 Blood Brook Rd. Fairlee, Vt.  
 Koasek Traditional Band of the Sovereign Abenaki Nation

 

Nathan E Pero
n.pero@aol.com   802-333-4671

 

PS.. Tribal Council meeting will be approx. 11 AM that same day. If the time changes, I will notify you.

 

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Background/Outline of the Snow Snake

 

TSOHEAC, THE SNOWSNAKE GAME

The snow snake game is played throughout North America wherever there is enough snow to warrant it. Most Native American snow snakes are quite long, from four to as long as ten feet, often thrown down a special lane made in the snow. The Abenaki game and snow snakes are somewhat different from the general pattern. Snow snakes are recorded by Euroamerican observers from the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot people and the Abenakis at Norridgewok, Maine. Most of the snow snakes of Wôbanakik are shorter than those of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) or more western native people (Games, mudcat [short] snow snake). Except for an exceptional five to seven foot example from the Passamaquoddy people, and a short Penobscot 14 1/2" long example, most snow snakes are 18"-24" long. Among the numerous shapes are two named varieties, the spoon mouth (called mquon in Passamaquoddy) and snake head (called atosis in Passamaquoddy). Some have a pewter or lead weight cast into the head (Games, snow snake head). These are fine wood shop projects. Make the snakes from maple, birch or ash about 7/7" - 1" wide by 1/2"- 5/8" thick. Carving is optional but does not improve the distance of the throw. I have made mine longer, about 3 feet long, so they will be more competitive with other native Nations' snow snakes, but the design is up to you.

 

MAKING THE SNOWSNAKE

The design presented here is adapted from published Maine examples. The snowsnakes are very easy projects, using dimensional lumber and requiring but little carving expertise.

BILL OF MATERIALS

1. Hardwood lumber 1" X 1/2" X 40".

INSTRUCTIONS

1. With a pocketknife, whittle the snowsnake head to the shape shown in the photograph.

2. With a hand plane darefully plane the rest ot the snowsnake to a triangular cross section.

3. Taper the end and sand the snowsnake.

4. With a small gouge, carve in the head design and body designs.

5. Final sand, stain and varnish the snowsnakes.

 

The play:

If someone is interested in playing snow snakes, he goes through the village crying the name of the snow snake game in the local dialect. People who are interested join him, bringing their snow snakes. The group proceeds to a place with a hard flat crust of snow. The snow snakes glide best on such a surface. Often contestants will make a straight groove in the snow by dragging a 3" diameter log. Each player advances to the throwing point one at a time. Calling the name of the snow snake and giving a quick throwing motion as if skipping a stone over the water, he skips it as far as it will go. Every person has their own hold, I hold the back, with my index finger against the end. I use a side-arm throw. I still am not all that good, sometimes missing the groove entirely. The next person moves to the station and throws. At the end of the first round, the snow snakes are upended in the snow to serve as their own markers, and the second round commences. Among the Penobscots, the furthest stick wins all the rest. The winner gathers up the bundle of snow snakes and with a yell throws them up in the air. The other players scramble to recover their (or what they perceive as the best) snow snake.

 

            Making the Snow Snake - detailed step by step instructions were provided but they are too involved and require several illustrations.  Essentially, the snow snake was carved from an ash or hickory stave, a 1¼ inch square piece that was approximately 5 feet long.  It was carved so that the bottom surface was rounded, while the top or backbone was more or less flat up to the head.  The head or forward end was carved to an up-pointed and tapered “snake-head.”  Each snake had personal carvings, decorations, and details to give the snakes their own identities.  It was noted that the finished snakes were finished very smooth and coated to make them waterproof and to prevent them from warping.      

            The Playing Field - “The Indians prepared the playing field in either of two ways....To play on the ice of a frozen lake...they took up their snow snakes and hurried down to the frozen lake.  They planted the snow snakes upright in the snow and spread out in two long lines.  Then, using wide strips of bark for shovels, they built up a long, narrow bank of snow in a straight line.  It was about 2 feet high, and 3 feet wide, and 1000 to 2000 feet long...the rest of the boys flattened the top of this snowbank...  two of them hurried into the nearby forest.  Soon they returned with a fairly stout limb from a tree.   Two branches were protruding from the thinner end.  Taking hold of these branches, and walking one on each side of the snowbank, they dragged the limb along the top center of the bank, from one end to the other.  The weight of the limb made a shallow trench in the snow... On land or where the snow was deeper, the Indians used a different method.  They tied a rope of braided rawhide to one end of a short log, about six inches thick and three or four feet long.  Then one man made a shallow trough by dragging the log in a straight line through the snow...”

            The Game - “...Some of them rubbed snow on the belly side of the snakes; others had already poured water on theirs.  This had frozen as soon as they stepped outdoors and would give added speed to the snow snakes when they were thrown.  Standing at one end of the prepared snowbank, each player in turn sent his snake skimming along the groove on top... The snow snake can be thrown underhand... or overhand... Each player marked the place where his snake stopped, either with one of his arrows or with an owner stick...  The winning player, of course, is the one who can throw it the farthest...”

            Fact?? - “...Indians have been known to hurl their snow snakes at a speed of more than one hundred and twenty miles per hour, and to cover a distance of more than one mile.”

 

 

 

Snow Snake

The Snow Snake Games were played in the winter, after the men returned from the annual hunt. These were huge games. Village played village. People shouted for their team. It was an exciting game of skill to the Iroquois people, and a team sport.
Before the games, each player carved their own “snake,” which was a flattened piece of wood or a carved wood scrap, depending upon the age of the players and the competition level. One end was curved up a little, and the other end was notched to make it easy to throw.
When two teams met, they dragged a log through the snow to form a path or a trough. The object of the game was to throw your “snake” along the trough at a really fast speed. Teams alternated tosses. The distance that your snake traveled was added to your team score. Whichever side had the longest total distance or the best score was the winner.