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    Bill Nelson

    Winter Games


      Native American winter game, reached highest levels of sophistication among the nations and tribes near the Great Lakes. Seneca tribe of the Iroquois Nation called it Gawasa, I believe. (Also the name of the oldest winter training program in the BSA I believe, now well over 50. In the Land of the Oneidas council upstate New York)

      On a long, 1/4 mile or more , level surface, build a long pile of snow, 2 feet high, 2 feet wide. This will occupy a winter camporee of about 100 scouts for an hour or so. Make a V shaped trough in the pile, smooth and ice it thoroughly.

      All contestants have previously carved a snow snake. It should be 5 to 7 feet long, about 1 1/2 inches high at the 2 to 4 inch long head. The eyes of the snake are where it is weighted. The snake should never be wider than 3/4 inch and is usually only a 1/2 inch high, behind the head. The bottom is rounded, the top, behind the head is flat. The underside of the head should curve up like a ski. Decorations and carvings should be done on the non-sliding surfaces.

      The snow snake is held in the throwing hand with the index finger at the end of the snake, like a sling. The snake is supported with the non throwing hand during a running head start. The arm movement is a crass between a baseball side-arm pitch and a bowling delivery.

      Using these directions, at the defunct Iroquois Council's 1973 Gawasa, a 14 year old scout threw a snow snake more than 1/4 mile down the trough. I have seen the Huron Nation build troughs on Lake Michigan over 3 miles long, and one year saw a television report of a Huron throwing a snow snake over 2 miles down a trough (about 1978).

      The younger scouts get really impressed when they see what they are capable of.


      I have seen all sorts of things done at winter camps, and while I have no specific suggestions as to games, there are variations you can use on other sports/games, such as: Golf (use tennis balls coffee cans and expect to lose a few balls), volleyball (careful, the ball gets quite hard, but playing this game knee or waist deep in powder is not to be missed.), campfire building and so on. As I type this I remember building kitchen areas with tables and seats by digging into the snow. Wide games are a lot of fun in the snow (see other thread) and I imagine "stalker" would be trickier on snowshoes... One winter camp here in BC (Rovent for you BC'ers who have seen a lot of this before) also features a gateway contest and snow-sculpture contest.

      In general I think that you can do a lot of things at a winter camp that you can do in the summer, you just have to remember to stay dry. One final note, Hot Chocolate tastes GREAT at -20 C!!! Enjoy!

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