PRSD Hosts 13th Annual Hand Games Tournament at Grimshaw Public School in the Multiplex

PRSD Hosts 13th Annual Hand Games Tournament at Grimshaw Public School in the Multiplex

On Friday, May 3, 2019, the sounds of chanting, drumming, cheering, and the smells of sage, stew and bannock will fill the field house at the Grimshaw Multiplex as Grimshaw Public School hosts hundreds of Peace River School Division (PRSD) students for PRSD’s 13th Annual Pakisiwin (Hand) Games competition.  


Last year’s competition featured over 500 students from across the division and this year is expected to be even larger.  “The PRSD Hand Games Competition is a high-spirited event that brings students from across the division together,” says PRSD Board Chair Darren Kuester.  “This is one of many ways we honour, teach and share First Nations, Metis and Inuit traditions and culture. Our Indigenous peoples hold the knowledge and history of our country, and we are committed to ensuring our students are provided with ample opportunities to learn, experience and benefit from the significance and value of their ways.”


The games will begin at 10:00 am with blessings and prayers from Elder Dave Matilpi, ceremonial smudging, drumming and the recognition of Territory 8 land.


The traditional Hand Games were introduced to PRSD schools over a decade ago as a way to further value and celebrate the traditions and culture of Indigenous peoples. The hand games teach dexterity, hand-eye coordination, stretching and agility, and through direct experience, it shows students how to relate to one another, how to have fun, how to test oneself, how to be a good sport and, how to demonstrate fair play.


“This event is very special to Peace River School Division,” says PRSD Superintendent Paul Bennett. “The energy level leading up to, and during the competition is absolutely incredible. To see and be among hundreds of students joined together chanting, cheering, learning and sharing in the traditional Indigenous games dating back hundreds of years is very powerful.”


Hand games can also be known as the “bone games” or “hand stick games,” and have been a part of First Nation’s history for hundreds of years and are still played in many parts of North America.  Historically, the games were played as a means of trading goods as well as for social entertainment. While specifics of the games vary by region, it is traditionally played as hiding and guessing games where players use lively gestures and chanting to distract their opponents to ensure they do not guess in which hand they are hiding an item. Winners are awarded sticks and eventually, the winning team will have all or a majority of the sticks. The games are also accompanied by traditional drumming.


First Nations, Metis and Inuit history, culture and traditions are integrated into everyday learning, curriculum and various school assemblies and events.  Throughout various schools in PRSD, students are also provided opportunities to participate in sweat lodges, the Blanket Exercise, listening to the teachings of Elders, the Seven Grandfather Teachings, Eagle Feather Ceremonies for high school graduates, Aboriginal Studies courses, storytelling, participation in Orange Shirt Day and Aboriginal Day celebrations, the hand games competition, culture clubs and the Aboriginal Career Fair.