M73.0-40 | Gambling game

Gambling game
Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Mi'kmaq
1875-1900, 19th century
28.3 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Gambling game (1)
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"Waltes" is a game of chance that has been played by the Mi'kmaq since at least 1600 A.D. The circular dice were tossed by slamming the wooden platter against the ground. The score was kept using carved sticks representing various values. Waltes was played using six dice, but David Ross McCord collected eight with this set.

Keys to History

The reaction to first contacts was one of surprise and incredulity, and ultimately adaptation to new realities resulting from the arrival in North America of Europeans. Each other's customs were learned, new behaviours were observed and differences and similarities were noted.

The French were not especially surprised to find gambling games among the Mi'kmaq, such as this one called waltes. They were, however, surprised at the apparent calmness of the players: "They are very faithful about paying their gambling debts and never make a fuss or exhibit the least impatience, because, they say, they are playing only for entertainment and to find consolation in their friends." (Chrestien Leclerq, Nouvelle relation de la Gaspésie, p. 560-561).

Waltes is normally played with six tokens (although there are eight in this photograph) that are flipped when the wooden tray is hit against the ground. The sticks are used to keep count of the score.

  • What

    Waltes is a game of chance. The dice-tokens are made of bone and the tray is of wood. Players hit the tray against the ground, making the dice jump. The game is normally played with six dice.

  • Where

    The provenance of this game is not known, although it was certainly made somewhere in the Maritime Provinces.

  • When

    Waltes seems to have been around since before the arrival of Europeans, and it is still played to this day.

  • Who

    Children young and old enjoy playing waltes. To learn how you can make your own game, click here.