Gambling in Ancient North America

The Bettor-wager Pattern in Continental Perspective




Indigenous gambling, archaeology, ethnohistory, North America


Gambling in ancient North America was primarily an intergroup activity. This position as a liminal practice, taking place on territorial frontiers and at large intertribal gatherings, puts gaming on the very forefront of cultural transmission and knowledge exchange, with several implications. Intergroup gaming results in a shared fluency of games, transcending barriers of language and ethnicity. Evidence of common methods and materials allows ancient, region-spanning social networks to be identified. And subtle variations demonstrate a repeated and ongoing negotiation between groups over time as objectives and participants change, with this evolution of gaming practices continuing to the present day. The freedom to adapt to changing conditions, contrasted with notions of a static “traditional” past, is not just a matter of sovereignty relating to Indigenous games. It is a reflection of the nature of Indigenous gaming as it has always been.

Author Biography

Gabriel M. Yanicki, Canadian Museum of History

Gabriel Yanicki is Curator, Western Archaeology at the Canadian Museum of History. 




How to Cite

Yanicki, G. (2021). Gambling in Ancient North America: The Bettor-wager Pattern in Continental Perspective. Critical Gambling Studies, 2(2), 123–140.



Original Research Articles