Sign In
Grenfell Campus Memorial University

Summer of Research

banner4_trans.png  
 
RECLAIMING GAME CULTURE
Dr. Angela Robinson
Faculty of Social Sciences - Anthropology

Imagine if someone confiscated your favourite board game as a way of suppressing a piece of your culture. This was the fate of the game of Waltes throughout Nova Scotia. Dr. Angela Robinson is learning the game with the goal of passing on key aspects of Mi’kmaw cultural practices to Newfoundland Mi’kmaq.

Waltes is a traditional Mi’kmaw game that is found in various forms throughout North America. It is believed to have spread throughout northeastern North America via the trading routes and by partners of the Aboriginal group. The game is complex and how it is played varies regionally.

The Mi’kmaw version of the game is played on a circular wooden dish called a waltestaqn (wall tess stah ahn). There are six disk-shaped dice made of bone, each with one plain side and the other side marked with a design. The score is kept using sticks: four decorated sticks (the old man and his three wives) and 51 plain sticks (his children). To play, two players sit opposite each other with the dish between them, usually on a blanket. The dice are placed on the waltestaqn with marked faces downward. One player takes the dish in both hands, raises it and brings it down with enough force to flip the dice. The game begins when all but one of the upturned faces are marked or unmarked. Points are earned for five of a kind dice or when all six dice are the same. The player remains in control of the bowl until she or he fails to score. The amount of winnings is taken from the pile of sticks, forming a private pile and then the other player repeats the dice throwing until they too fail to score. Scoring is carried out following a complicated set of rules and game play can continue indefinitely.1

The game of Waltes holds social and cultural significance for the Mi’kmaq of Eastern Canada. So far, Dr. Robinson has taught one student to play the game and is working with a second. She eventually plans to pass it on to Mi’kmaw communities throughout western Newfoundland.

“The game can be shared with the broader Mi’kmaw community and can also be taught at the primary and elementary school levels as a part of cultural awareness and for teaching numeracy skills,” said Dr. Robinson.

Although Dr. Robinson is non-aboriginal, she is an active member of the Corner Brook Aboriginal Women’s Association (CBAWA) and the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network (NAWN). With the help of a MUCEP student assistant, she plans to bring the game of Waltes to both the CBAWA and to the Bay St. George’s Cultural Circle.

1http://www.cbu.ca/mrc/waltes#.VQwFp7GbaUk Stansbury Hagar, in Games of the North American Indian, Volume One Games of Chance, by Stuart Culin, published by University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 1992, pp.74-76.

FUNDERS

  • Grenfell Campus Vice President’s Research Fund
  • MUCEP

Being Present in Health Care

Be here now. Do what you are doing when you’re doing it. Be where you are when you’re there. The idea of staying present as a tool for self-management in stressful situations is one that Dr. Michael Newton has been teaching students and community groups for years. [READ MORE...]                     

The Boreal Ecosystem Research Initiative

What’s in the soil, water and air around us can tell a story about the ecosystem we depend upon. Scientific research can help write those stories, but it can’t happen without a laboratory. And the more advanced the laboratory, the more insightful the research results will be. [READ MORE...]                       

Recognizing Mi'kmaq Soldiers

Over the years, Dr. Maura Hanrahan has heard members of the Newfoundland Mi’kmaq community lament the fact that their grandfathers and great-grandfathers served in World War I, but were not recognized as Mi’kmaq soldiers. But how many Newfoundland Mi'kmaq participated in World War I? [READ MORE...]