Lahal is a traditional Indigenous gambling game featuring sticks, bones and songs. Gambling was a prominent feature of nearly all games played by many different First Peoples across the Pacific Northwest. Gambling games became common ways to engage with others in the community and with peoples across territorial boundaries in the exchange of goods, information and even lands and people. Lahal has a complex history and was played by many different groups in the area. In the Coast Salish tradition the Creator gave the stick game to humanity at the beginning of time as a way to settle disputes, as an alternative to war.

To think about – or discuss with a friend

  • In the video, former Chief Roger Williams says that during the residential school period, the government said that “Lahal is a bad game, it’s gambling. When you gamble, it’s evil.” Why might the government at that time have suggested gambling was “evil”?
  • Why, do you think, gambling has been made illegal at certain times and places and regulated and taxed at other times and places? 
  • If something is illegal, is it bad? If something is legal, is it good? Explain. 
  • Is it possible for gambling to be both good and bad? If so, suggest conditions under which it might be good and those under which it might be bad.
  • What, in your opinion, is the responsibility of leaders and governments with respect to gambling? Explain.
  • What, in your opinion, is the responsibility of an ethical person with respect to gambling? Explain.