If you are reading this I want to say thank you, because the more people that learn and play moccasin game the better the chances are of this beautiful game surviving and being passed on to the next generations of young men.
Before you read on through this booklet I would like to take a little bit of your time to tell you how this booklet project developed.
First I want to say I do not know everything about Ojibwe style of moccasin game. There are Ojibwe men out there in our Ojibwe communities that have been playing longer than I have and they might even have a different way of explaining this game. They might know things about the game that I do not and those ideas, concepts, and knowledge might not be mentioned in this booklet. I do not claim to be the only person with moccasin game knowledge and I am not the only expert, there are many others throughout Ojibwe country.
While growing up in the West End area of the Red Lake Reservation where my learning of moccasin game first took place, there were many men who played this game and played it all the time. I heard the Ojibwe language being spoken almost daily. This was in the early 1980’s and I never intended on being a teacher of either the language or the game of moccasin. I never dreamed there would be a need for teachers of either moccasin game or the Ojibwe language. Currently in the area of West End you do not see anyone playing moccasin game in the summer, you do not hear the faint sound of Ojibwe language being spoken at the neighbor’s house or anyone communicating in the language of our ancestors. I figured moccasin game and the Ojibwe language would be passed on from one generation to the next without any troubles. It was not until about 8 years before I am writing this that I noticed that my generation was not using the Ojibwe language and moccasin game was being played less frequent. There were no longer any moccasin game practice sessions like the ones that took place back in the 1980’s. The many moccasin game tournaments that I enjoyed all through Ojibwe country were no more. There were maybe two moccasin game tournaments yearly in my area and those were in Roseau River Manitoba and Red lake Minnesota. During the 1980’s there were several yearly moccasin game tournaments throughout northern Minnesota, Manitoba and Ontario Canada.
Now that I teach this game, mainly in the high school classroom setting, I feel the teaching and learning of the game has changed. I learned the game by observing it for a few years before I started to play and that was only when I was given an opportunity to sit in and play for a player who could not continue to play with his team one evening because he became ill. I started with the easiest and less complex of the playing positions on that team that night. I went on to master that position then I went to the next position until I knew all positions and the major aspects of the game. This took time and did not happen overnight, it actually took a few years of playing regularly. Once I and my brother could play a full game without any guidance from older players we formed our own team and 30 years later we still play for the most part with the same team members as we did back then. Learning the game like this is no longer the case. The students that I have taught, have learned to play from me showing them the whole game for a class period a day and sometimes two class periods certain days of the week.
This is when I started creating this booklet. I wanted to create something in writing that my students could use in my absence to play the game correctly. This goes against the grain of the traditional way of teaching this ancient game. I consulted elders before writing and documenting this game and asked them for permission to do this. I was advised that times are changing and the traditional way of learning our age old legends, sacred teachings, sacred ceremonies, and cultural ways are no longer the same. I was advised to do whatever it took to show these students this sacred game because they would not get this information and exposure anywhere else. I was given permission to write things down.
At my volunteer group I teach the game once a week, young and old men alike attend and have learned the game. These men would attempt to play on their own and when you are just learning this complex game it is hard to remember the rules and procedures. There are not as many players as there used to be and they would rely on a phone call to me or to have someone to be there that knew the game. This was hard and many learners of the game would get discouraged and confused. This is another reason I wrote this booklet so they could get through a full game without having to call or having to have a master player present to complete a game. I felt the need for this and once I developed this booklet I used it in my high school classes and with my group members as a resource. I now feel this to be an asset to the game and feel I need to share it with whoever is interested in learning and playing the game. This is why I have decided to publish this booklet and make it accessible to everyone who is interested and who may be able to use this booklet.
I encourage anyone who finds inconsistencies, problems, or knows a better way to write this age old knowledge down to do so for the survival of this beautiful game. There is a need for teaching resources for moccasin game and the Ojibwe language and culture. My goal as I wrote this teaching aid for myself was to lock in what information I know about this game. Also another reason, if the game were to die out and does not survive, an Ojibwe child 150 years from now could take this booklet and revive this game and at least come close to playing the game of what it is now and lasts as long as the world lasts.
I must warn, this game will not be learned in one sitting or in several sittings. It takes time and energy and you have to play this game to learn it. I have noticed that since I have been teaching moccasin game that there is a common belief among people that do not know the game. They think automatically that this game is an easy guessing game for kids. Don’t be fooled, this game is for young men and men, it is a complex game as you will see.
Again, I thank you for taking interest in the beautiful game of moccasin and I hope you enjoy what I have come to enjoy from this game and find this booklet useful.
– Ogimaagiizhig Odoodeman Adikwan (Charles Grolla)