Volume 1 of this Bison Books edition takes up games of chance, involving guessing and throwing dice. Culin was able to show that the games of North American tribes were remarkably similar in method and purpose. He found that games using dice of various materials—wood, cane, bone, animal teeth, fruit stones—existed among 130 tribes belonging to 30 linguistic groups. The games are described in detail in this volume, and so are the popular guessing games drawing on sticks and wooden disks and involving hidden objects.
Volume 2 is just as absorbing in its elaboration of skills like archery and games like snow-snake, in which darts or javelins were hurled over snow or ice. Played throughout the continent north of Mexico were the hoop and pole game and its miniature, solitaire form called ring and pin, here illustrated. With equal authority Culin discusses ball games: racket, shinny, football, and hot ball. He includes accounts of "minor amusements": shuttlecock, tipcat, quoits, popgun, bean shooter, and cat's cradle.
Originally published in 1907, Stewart Culin's comprehensive work reveals a side of American Indian culture still only rarely shown. An experienced observer, Culin was curator of ethnology at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences and the author of books about games in other cultures.