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Slahal (Lahal), Bone Game

"Slahal" or "Lahal" is a traditional gambling game played by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest. There are many variations and names of the game depending on the native language, and the purposes and significance of play are also contextual. The video above describes and depicts a specific version of the game, its basic equipment, and some of the contexts in which the game is played. Some of the original purposes of these bone games include tribal conflict mediation or as an alternative to war, a means of spiritual and community development, or the redistribution of wealth within a tribe. Slahal provides an example of the early relationship between play and ritual, as well as an interesting blend of the alea and agon play forms identified by Roger Caillois.

History and Meaning of Bone Game, "Slahal"

In this video Tulalip players of Slahal explain the history of Slahal and express the various functions and meanings of play. One interesting function of the game concerns acculturation: the game teaches the community values, such as strength in community and teamwork, and practices important skills such as memory and mental and physical endurance. Given the historical age of the game it can be seen as an early instance of play being used as a educational tool.


  1. Burke Museum, "Gambling Bones"
  2. Culin, Stewart. Games of the North American Indians, vol.1 Games of Chance. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1907.
  3. Instructions for Slahal
  4. Slahal
  5. Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest