Chunkey Stones

Examples of Chunkey stones.

BILL SCHUETTE/Contributed

The game of Chunkey Stones was a game created by Native Americans around 600 AD, in the Cahokia region near what is now St. Louis, Missouri. The game was played using polished stone disks with concave sides, two to six inches in diameter, and one and one-half inches wide, and a slender, spear-like hickory pole about eight feet long, sometimes covered with bear grease. The stone was rolled over bare ground, or over ice in the winter, on a field about 100 feet long, and 12 feet wide. The object of the game was to throw the pole and try to come closest to the point where the players thought the stone would stop. If the stone was hit, no points were scored. Two men would enter the game, one rolling the stone, and both playing. There was great competition between players, and wagers on the outcome abounded among spectators, and players alike, some betting everything they owned. The games lasted most of the day and ended only when the players became too exhausted to continue. One translation of “Chunkey” was “running hard labor.”

These games were played between neighboring villages and tribes and offered a time for great gatherings in the community. There would be singing and requests for spiritual guidance among the spectators.

A Chunkey Stone was made from a very hard material, such as quartz, which was difficult to carve, and was considered quite valuable. The stone was owned by the whole tribe rather than by any one individual.

This game was being played when the first European explorers arrived in the Midwest, around 1500. It continued to be played throughout North America long after that.

Bill Schuette has served on the board of directors at the Sauk County Historical Society since 1993. He lives in rural Loganville.