Published on April 22, 2014 by Carol
Native Americans have many uses for the cedar tree. Cedar twigs, greenery and all, have both sacred uses (as in smudging and purification rituals) as well as secular use. One such secular use for cedar twigs is the ‘bundle and pin’ game. This traditional Woodland Indian game is called “T’wis”, by the Passamaquoddy Natives of Maine. The T’wis is an indoor game that is composed of an oblong piece of moose hide, about four inches in length, punctured with small holes, the center one being slightly larger than the others. This piece of hide is joined to a bundle of cedar (arbor vitae) twigs, tightly wound round with the cord. To this, by several inches of string, is attatched a sharp pointed stick, tied near the center and held between the thumb and forefinger like a pen.
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The game consists of giving the moosehide an upward toss and at the same time piercing one of the holes with the pointed end of the stick. The number of points necessary for the winning is usually set at 100. Each player can hold the t’wis until he misses a point.
There is a tradition that the first t’wis-uk were made from that peculiar fungus which grows out of the bark of trees and is known to the Passamaquoddy as squaw-oc-l’moos wal-dee – “the swamp woman’s dishes” – Squaw-oc-moos is the black beast of the Indian legends and even now children will not play with this fungus for fear of the swamp woman. “One night”, so the story runs, “during a very important game of t’wis, on which everything available had been wagered, both contestants fell asleep. The one having the t’wis was carried by Med-o-lin many miles into the swamp. When he awoke he saw Squaw-oc-moos eating out of the dishes and a t’wis made of boughs in his hands.” It seems quite impossible to get a t’wis constructed from these wal-dee. The Indians will describe such a t’wis and promise faithfully to make one, even resenting any insinuations that they are afraid to do so. Their promise, nevertheless, for whatever reason, remains unfulfilled.