malotakahantaawi! Let’s Play Straw Game!

College students gathered on the floor with straws for the game
Myaamia students playing the straw game at one of their Fall Retreats. Photo by Jonathan M. Fox.

Meelotakahaminki ‘the Straw Game’ is a game of cunning and deception. It will test your abilities of observation while you try to outsmart your friends. So let’s grab some straws and begin the game!

What you will need:

This game can be played with a set of 51 or 101  straws. The smaller set of straws would serve about five or fewer players and the larger would be enough for 10 or fewer players. To make your own set of straws, you can buy sets of barbecue skewers. Just make sure to cut off the sharp ends before playing.

To keep track of points you can use a separate set of scoring sticks, of a different size to the straws, or just remember your own score if none are available.

How to play:

The first player to earn 10 points wins. Players earn points by correctly selecting piles of straws with the right amount of straws in them.

A dealer will be selected to begin the game and will place the set of straws in the middle of the circle of players. As quickly as possible, while also paying careful attention to the numbers of straws in each pile, the dealer will count out piles of 10 straws each and an additional pile with 11. The players will be looking for the pile with the extra straw in it. 

Once the dealer has finished making the sets of straw, he will turn to the player on his right and say mihkanto, ‘find it’. Then the player will have to quickly, just a couple of seconds, select a pile of straws and then repeat turning to the player on their right and say mihkanto.

The players will take their turns like this going around the circle with the dealer going last. The players will count out their piles and the player that has 11 straws will say eehtwaani maataathswi nkotaasi, ‘I have eleven!’ and then will count them out for the group. That player will score 1 point and gets a scoring stick to keep track of their points.

However, if the dealer is being especially tricky they can also hide a pile of 9 straws amongst the other sets of 10 straws which will earn the player who selects it three points! If a player finds a set of nine straws they should say eehtwaani nkotimeneehki, ‘I have nine!’, then count out the straws for the group.

If the dealer can fool the rest of the group then they can win the additional points by selecting the pile they know has 9 or 11 sticks, so it pays to get crafty with your counting. It might take a few games to start feeling more comfortable in the dealer role, but just keep playing and soon you’ll be a master.
The game will keep going until a player gets 10 points and shouts eenihiwiaani! ‘I win!’.


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Updated: August 5, 2022

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