mahkisina ayootaawi miihkintiitaawi! Let’s Play Moccasin Game!

Mahkisina Meehkintiinki, ‘Moccasin Game’ is a game of strategy and teamwork that does not necessarily involve moccasins. We used to hide bullets under our moccasins, but now we hide marbles under decorated pads or potholders. You could still use your shoes to hide the marbles if you really want to play and don’t have any potholders on you, but maybe just make sure they’re clean first.

On to the game…

What you will need:

For this game you will need four mahkisina, ‘moccasins’ (decorated pads or potholders) and four ahsena, ‘stones’ (marbles) to hide under them. You will need three white marbles and one black marble. A long pointing stick will be used to select the finding team’s choice of mahkisina.  A rattle and drum can also be used for playing joking songs to help keep your opponent distracted. 

To keep score, there will also be a total of four large scoring sticks with ribbons tied around them for the full points and additional smaller scoring sticks with no ribbons for the half points.

mahkisina game pads
Mahkisina pads with ribbonwork. Photo by Karen L. Baldwin

How to play:

Two teams of at least three will be needed to play the game. The teams will alternate between hiding and finding. In order to win, a team must win all four large scoring sticks.

There will be a blanket spread out between the teams with the four mahkisina laid out in a row in the middle of it. 

To determine which team will hide first, someone not playing for either team will hide the black marble in their hand. The team on the North side will get to guess where the black marble is first, if they don’t get it right then the other team will get to guess. Once a team has correctly guessed the location of the black marble they will then be the first ‘hiders’ and the game will begin.

One member from both teams will be selected to ‘hide’ and ‘find’ for their respective team. The ‘hider’ will be given the three white marbles and one black marble to hide and the ‘finder’ will be given the pointing stick.

The ‘hider’ will present the marbles to the ‘finder’ who will then say kyaatoolo, ‘hide it’. The ‘hider’ will then be able to hide the marbles beneath the different mahkisina. She can only hide one marble under each mat, but she can move the marbles from under one mat to another as much as she likes to further confuse the finding team. Once she is done, she will say mihkanto, ‘find it’. At this point, the hiding team and whoever is on drums and rattle will start to sing their songs to distract their opponents.

The ‘finder’ and his team will be able to confer on where they think the black marble is hidden. When the team has decided which mahkisini ‘moccasin’ they want flipped over, the ‘finder’ will either flip it over with the pointing stick or simply point to it and the ‘hider’ will flip it for them. 

mahkisina being played
Two teams play Mahisina Meekintiinki, ‘Moccasin Game’ in the Council House in Miami, OK. Photo by Doug Peconge

Be careful not to fully touch a mahkisina pad before being certain of your selection, once a pad has been touched that then counts as your team’s choice and it will be flipped over. That may sound obvious, but in the game it helps to gesture to one pad or another to see if the ‘hider’s’ facial expression gives anything away. If they are good, they will just bluff out of it, but it also may be a solid clue as to where the black marble is hidden.

The finding team wants to find the black marble on the second or third flip of the mahkisina. If they find it on the second flip they will receive a half-point (two smaller scoring sticks). If they find it on the third flip, then they will receive a full point (a large scoring stick with a ribbon). 

If they find the black marble on the first or last flip, it is the hiding team that will score a half-point. 

When either team has won 2 half-points, they can exchange their four smaller scoring sticks for the full-point larger scoring stick with a ribbon. Once all the scoring sticks have been doled out if a team scores a point they can then take the appropriate amount of scoring sticks from the opposing team’s pile. 

The teams will switch between hiding and finding when a team wins a full point. If the team that won the point wants to remain the same, they can do that as well.

The teams will go back and forth, hiding and finding as they choose, until one team has all four large counting sticks. At which point, their team can yell eenihiwiaanki, ‘We win!’.

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Updated: August 5, 2022

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