What Games Did the Inuit Play?


The Inuit people spread from the eastern edge of Greenland to the northern Siberian tundra. This territory spread more than 6,000 miles from east to west. Within this vast territory, Inuit families and tribes kept close contact with one another. This protected the culture and kept language and traditions cohesive throughout the people. Games played together during the long winter kept Inuit people happy and healthy.

Jumping Games

  • Many Inuit games kept people healthy and active during the long winter months. For the kneel jump, players knelt on the ground. They swung their arms and used the momentum to jump. The goal is not only to land on your feet, but also to jump the farthest. A similar game called the toe jump also pitted jumpers against each other. Each player crouched down and grabbed their toes. Keeping their fingers locked around their feet, each player jumps. Any player that falls over is disqualified. The player that jumps the farthest wins.

Toy Games

  • Many games for adults and children used toys or other equipment. Cat’s cradle took on new meaning in the hands of storytellers. They manipulated loops of strings to make shapes and patterns that reinforced the story they were telling. Another game used a wooden or horn cup with pegs tied to the side. The simplest version required the player to flip the peg into the cup. More-complex versions required the player to flip multiple pegs into the cup in a specific order.

Social Games

  • Games were more than just competition to the Inuit people. They also entertained those who weren’t playing. The Laughing Game pits two people against each other. As the games starts, both players try to laugh louder and longer than the other does. The laughter quickly spreads to the watchers until everyone is laughing. Another game that provides a humorous release is the Throat Game. In this game, two players face each other and hum or vocalize while staring into the other’s eyes. The first player to laugh loses.

Group Games

  • When they gather, Inuit people play together. The Blanket Toss is one group game Inuit play. The blanket is walrus hides sewn together. This strong blanket is used to both launch and catch a player. The player lies on the center of the blanket while a group spreads around the sides of the hide. They lift the hide, tossing the player into the air and catching the player in the hide. The goal is to see how high each group can toss a player.

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