Blacklodge District comes out victorious in 53rd annual junior handgame tournament

Thursday, May 2, 2019
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Photo by Luella Brien

Five-year-old Jaylee Deputee sings and dances while shaking her rattle. Deputee played on the Wyola team during the 53rd annual junior handgame tournament in Crow Agency.

The Big Horn District hosted the 2019 Junior Handgame Tournament April 24 to 29 at the multipurpose building in Crow Agency. Handgame, a traditional guessing game is played throughout the year in many areas of the country, some tribes call it stickgame. The Apsáalooke people believe the game was given to the people by the First Maker to play for his entertainment. The tournament, started in 1966 by Edmund “Buck Day” Little Light, is held annually each spring. Those who are 30 years old and younger play in the junior tournament, while those over 30 play in the senior tournament. This year the senior tournament will be held on May 8 through 12 in Crow Agency at the multipurpose building.

“I’m very proud of Big Horn District for sponsoring junior tournament this year. We had great prizes and lots food for feeds on Saturday and Sunday,” said Big Horn District Senator Pat Alden Jr. “We have a little break and we’re back at it for senior tourney.”

Every district on the reservation is represented; Northern Cheyenne and Kiowa teams are also invited to play. This year the Kiowa did not participate. In addition to winning the tournament, teams can win other contest like best singers and fanciest hider.

In game 1 on Wednesday Northern Cheyenne lost to No Water, and Blacklodge won against Pryor in game 2.

On Thursday, Reno lost to Blacklodge in game 3 and Rivercrow defeated Wyola in game 4. Lodge Grass closed out the night with a win against No Water in game 5,

Big Horn started Friday’s round of games with a defeat against Wyola in game 6. Blacklodge continued their winning streak in game 7 against Lodge Grass and in game 8 against Big Horn, securing their position in the championship game.

Saturday’s games marked the beginning of team eliminations from the tournament starting with No Water’s defeat against Pryor in game 9. In game 10 No Water went on to lose against Northern Cheyenne in just over 12 minutes, the shortest game of the tournament. Reno lost out in game 11 to Rivercrow. Northern Cheyenne knocked Wyola out of the tournament in the last game of the night.

Sunday’s road to the championship started in game 13 with Rivercrow defeating Lodge Grass and Northern Cheyenne shutting down Rivercrow immediately after in game 14. Northern Cheyenne continued their winning streak in game 15 against Big Horn eliminating the hosts from tournament play. Because they were undefeated, Blacklodge would have to lose twice against Northern Cheyenne to be eliminated. Northern Cheyenne defeated them in the first game but came up short in game 17, securing Blacklodge’s victory.

As the champions of this year’s junior tournament, Blacklodge will host next year’s tournament.

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