Native American games will be added to P.E. classes

On Aug. 9-11, teachers, Native American liaisons, selected staff, and local youth organizations had the opportunity to attend a training course by the International Traditional Games Society (ITGS) The group’s mission is “Recovery, Restoration, and Re-Introduction of traditional Native American games.”

The three-day course was held at Escalante Middle School. Participants learned games of chance and intuition, children's games, individual and team games, and crafting of game equipment. Each game is a story that teaches a skill. The games also impart lessons in culture and history.

District staff learn how to play a Traditional Native American game

The "Run and Scream" game originated from tribal members who would sprint and yell to alert their village about advancing intruders. Staff and youth participants practiced running while yelling, then stopped when they ran out of breath and poked a stick in the ground. The winner was the person who could run the furthest while yelling – a true challenge for the cardiovascular system. 

All the games feature natural materials – twigs, stones, feathers, and sinew – that demonstrate tribal values. One young participant shared that in her tribe only 10 percent of willow branches could be collected from a single tree to reduce stress on the plant.

Traditional Native American Games hoop-catch game


ITGS believes ancient skills are important to all people. Like storytelling, the values of the culture are infused into the games, which teach honor, respect, and responsibility to others. Games address American Indian health from a holistic stance as education is paired with spiritual, mental, and physical survival skills of the past.

DeeAnna Brady Leader was one of the district's ITGS trainers. She spoke about the competitive nature of modern sports, and how these games offer a different perspective. "Play so important," she said. "It creates respect, releases endorphins, reduces stress."

Participants smile during a training for Traditional Native American Games

The idea for the games started with students from Park Elementary at one of the Native American Crew gatherings. The crew wanted to get outside and share their culture with all the students at the school. 

“It’s surprising how youth know that the key to cultural awareness in their community is to find and share commonalities,” said Jennifer Fernandez, the district’s Native American Liaison at Park. “I’m so proud of these kiddos!” Fernandez said.

Orlando Griego, Title VI Program Manager for the district, worked many hours to initiate the training and curriculum. 

After they complete this course, physical education teachers will be able to incorporate the games into their curriculum this school year for all K-12 students. Fernandez said a goal for next year is to have a traditional-games tournament open to the community. 

This unique P.E. offering aligns with the district’s goal to help all students feel like they belong. Honoring and incorporating Native American culture into schools is one of the ways the district is implementing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB)