Hand Games

Search Our Site

Hand Games


Coordinator: Sherietta Martinez-Brown
Email: smartinez@navajotech.edu
Phone: 505.786.4336
Cell: 505.422.1981


Registration Deadline: Friday, February 24, 2023


Competition Objectives

  • Reinforce a cultural activity with rich Native American history.
  • Showcase talent and skills.
  • Build comradery and sportspersonship among the TCUs teams.


Competition Rules

  1. Gambling, alcohol, or drugs of any kind will not be tolerated at any time at the annual AIHEC Student Conference and will result in automatic disqualification of an entire team.
  2. Both Flathead-style and Cheyenne-style games will be the games of choice. The game of choice will be determined by the flip of a coin when two teams are drawn for a tournament game. The reason for implementing both styles of Hand games is to promote both games and make the AIHEC Hand Games more interesting and enjoyable to watch and participate. The Cheyenne game is also played by Northern Arapaho, Northern Cheyenne, and the Lakota Nation. The winner of the coin flip will also determine which team hides the “bones” first.
  3. The Hand Games Tournament will be double elimination rounds. After the first loss, the losing team moves into the loser’s bracket. The team is eliminated after the second loss.
  4. Teams shall have six (6) players and no more than twelve (12) players with a designated team captain.
  5. Team captains shall recruit one (1) judge for each of their games. Judges may be a coach or captain from another team’s roster.
  6. Only the players registered on the team’s official roster will be allowed to hide and/or guess.
  7. Additional people from various Tribal Colleges and Universities may help sing, but they are not allowed to hide and/or guess.
  8. Players are not permitted to be registered on more than one team.
  9. Each Tribal College or University shall only have one (1) team registered.
  10. All team members shall be registered on the team’s official roster (ID’s will be checked with ID badges distributed).
  11. Each team captain is responsible for meeting the schedule as posted. Each team is expected to arrive on time. A fifteen (15) minute grace period will be allowed. Teams not prepared to begin after fifteen (15) minutes will forfeit that game.
  12. Team jumping is not permitted and will result in forfeiting.
  13. If a team does not have any singers, they may recruit a singer from another team.
  14. Registration forms shall be submitted to the Hand Games coordinator one week prior to the start of the competition.
  15. Two (2) sets of “bones” for each team, two (2) marked “bones” and two (2) unmarked “bones” for each team.
  16. Team shall use the “bones” provided by the tournament coordinators.
  17. No blocking players and a middle line will separate the teams.


Team Captains

  1. Team captains will notify the judges of their team’s guesser(s) and hider(s).
  2. Team captains shall select two (2) hiders each time the “bones” come into their team’s possession.
  3. Team captains shall give out and collect the “bones”
  4. Team captains can change hider(s) only after possession of both set of “bones” have been lost.
  5. Team captains shall tell their team’s hider(s) when to hide and when to open their hands and reveal the “bones”. If the hider(s) reveals the “bones” before the guess, then one (1) “bone” will be forfeited.
  6. Captains will sit in the middle of their team.



  1. Judges shall be present at the start of the games they judge and be available for the full duration of the game.
  2. Judges must be coaches or captains from other teams
  3. Judges will be responsible for any decision-making in each game. Judges may not serve as judges when their Tribal College or University’s team is playing.
  4. Judges will oversee the game by confirming each guess and each point.
  5. Judges’ rulings are final.



  1. In the interest of time, when there are two (2) hiders, the guesser will always guess both at the same time AND there will be a time limit of one (1) minute for hiding.
  2. Guesser(s) keep guessing until possession of the “bones” is regained or the hiding team scores all available points. Guesser(s) may pass his/her guessing to a fellow teammate in between guesses if the team captain notifies the judges and the opposing team’s captain.
  3. No fake guessing will be permitted. If a team member fakes a guess, they will forfeit a stick.



  1. Once the hider(s) is selected they are the teams’ hider(s) until the team loses possession of the “bones”.
  2. Each team will receive two (2) sets of “bones”, two (2) marked and two (2) unmarked. Each hider will be given a set of “bones”, one (1) marked and one (1) unmarked.
  3. Once the bones are hidden, hider(s) shall stand and keep both hands in view of the opposing guesser.
  4. If a guesser has indicated a decision and the hider brings both hands together, the hider shall forfeit the “bones”.
  5. If the “bones” are tossed by mistake, it will be a forfeit of the “bones”.
  6. The hider(s) will open their hands and reveal the “bones” when the judges indicate that the guess has been made.
  7. If the hider(s) reveals the “bones” before being guessed, one (1) “bone” will be forfeited.
  8. Hider(s) will continue to hide as long as the opposing team keeps guessing incorrectly.
  9. When hider(s) are guessed by the opposing team, they return the “bones” to the team captain.


Hand Signals

  1. Outside: with the thumb and index finger pointed outward in opposite directions (guessing that the “bones” are in the outside of the hands of the hiders).
  2. Inside: with a flat vertical hand, no thumbs, making a downward chopping motion (guessing that the “bones” are in the inside hands of the hiders).
  3. Right: without the thumbs, pointing the index finger to the right (guessing that the “bones” are in the right hands of one (1) or both hiders).
  4. Left: without the thumbs, pointing the index finger to the left (guessing that the “bones” are in the left hands of one (1) or both hiders).
  5. “Bone” matching will be allowed.


Scoring Sticks

  1. Only the hiding team who has possession of the “bones” is able to score sticks.
  2. If a hider brings up their hands to be guessed, then puts their hands back together or conceals hands again one (1) “bone” will be forfeited.
  3. Hiding team continues to hide until both sets of “bones” are lost.
  4. Guessing team continues to guess until both sets of “bones” are won.
  5. If the guessing team guesses two (2) hiders correctly, they regain possession of the “bones” and the opportunity to score sticks.
  6. If the guessing team guesses two (2) hiders incorrectly, the hiding team maintains possession of the “bones” and scores two (2) sticks.
  7. If the guessing team guesses two (2) hiders incorrectly, the hiding team maintains possession of the “bones” and scores two (2) sticks.
  8. The game continues in this manner until all available sticks have been scored.


Team Spirit

  1. Teams can use shakers, claps, etc. but cannot block the guesser’s view at any time.
  2. Teams may use any means (within reason) to distract the guesser, but cannot touch the opposing teammates with any object at any time during the game.
  3. Once instructed or warned by a judge to clear the guesser’s view, one (1) stick may be forfeited.


Cheyenne-Style Specific Hand Game Rules

  1. The objective for the guesser in Cheyenne-Style is to find the marked “bones” of the hider. The guesser makes a motion to show the bones.
  2. Identical Point Set for each game or two (2) sets of scoring sticks (6 stick set for each team). There is no Kick Stick in Cheyenne-Style.
  3. If the guessing team incorrectly guesses one (1) hider and correctly guesses the other hider, the hiding team scores one (1) point and the hider who “fooled” the guesser hides again and the game is played with one hider. If the guesser misses on their next guess, then both hiders resume play.
  4. When there are two (2) hiders in Cheyenne-Style, the guesser can use any of the following hand signals to guess the location of the “bones”:


Flathead-Style Specific Hand Game Rules

  1. Eleven (11) sticks will be used in Flathead-Style; each team receives five (5) sticks. The Kick Stick is the eleventh stick, which is played for at the beginning of the game.
  2. A coin flip will be used to determine who guesses first on the kick stick. The team that guesses correctly has the privilege of using the “bones.”
  3. In Flathead-Style scoring a stick or two (2) sticks is decided by the guesser finding the unmarked “bones” of the hider.
  4. There will be no thumbs or fork guessing. If this is done, the violators will forfeit one (1) stick. Guessers will use a flat vertical hand, making a downward chopping motion to guess that the “bones” are in the inside hands of the hiders.


Competition Guidelines and Procedures

  • The Hand Games coordinator is chosen by the host committee. The Hand Games coordinator will reserve an appropriately-sized Hand Games location for a substantial-sized audience to participate.
  • The Hand Games coordinator will provide periodic updates to the host committee concerning registration numbers.
  • The Hand Games coordinator may use the proven rules from above and make adjustments as the need arises to adapt to the specific host location, participant-entry size, budget limitations, etc.
  • The Hand Games coordinator might need to recruit numerous people (faculty, staff, or students) to assist with judging, onsite scheduling, scoring, monitoring, and registration and on-site setup of the conference room.
  • Suggested Checklist of Materials to bring to the conference: Large dry erase board for the official bracket; master spreadsheet of the registered students/teams; many sets of sticks and “bones,” both marked and unmarked.
  • Have a firm registration deadline. Postmarked, faxed, emailed, etc. at least seven (7) days before the start of the conference. No exceptions.
  • Enter registered students into a master spreadsheet by college/team to ease the checking in process at the conference.
  • The coordinator arrives at the conference at least a day before the competition to setup the room reserved for the Hand Games. At least four (4) games shall be able to occur simultaneously. One (1) game requires twelve (12) chairs for the first team facing twelve (12) other chairs for the second team with two (2) scorer’s tables positioned on the side. Singers and cheerers for each team may sit in rows behind the initial twenty-four (24) chairs.
  • There have been historically four (4) rounds (16 teams – down to 8 teams – down to 4 teams –down to 2 teams). This can be managed differently for double elimination, depending on the number of teams that register.
  • The order of the starting bracket is setup randomly.
  • Once the conference begins, the students are responsible for their own scheduling of other conference competitions.
  • All traveling trophies and awards are under the stewardship of the awarded student and college. Any damage that requires repair while in their possession is the responsibility of the awarded college or student.
    • 2014 – OLC, 2015 – FdLTCC
  • The Hand Games coordinator is responsible for reporting the winning team to the awards’ banquet coordinator


Registration Deadline: Friday, February 24, 2023

To register for this event, please download the application and email Sherietta Martinez-Brown (smartinez@navajotech.edu):

PDF Document: Download and REGISTER