Native American Rummy



by Cara Lawler

Cara works as a fifth grade teacher at Spring Valley Elementary.

Instructional Objective The learner will be able to categorize various aspects of Native American tribal life by matching such things as people and artifacts into collections which represent four major Indian culture groups: Plains Indians, Northwest Indians, Eastern Woodland Indians, and Southwest Indians.


Learners/Context The learners are fifth grade students, or any students, who are learning about the many Native American tribes that populated North America before the arrival of European settlers.

The card game would be used after students have had a good deal of exposure to the various Indian tribes that inhabited North America. The students would have already learned about the different types of buildings, crafts, tools, weapons, and ceremonial accouterments of these Native American groups. They would also be knowledgeable about how different natural environments can affect culture and ways of life.


Rationale Students usually show a great deal of interest in Native American studies, particularly artwork, weapons and tools, and different types of buildings. However, in the typical fifth grade curriculum, students are exposed to several North American tribes, and the amount of facts and information can become confusing. They have difficulty when trying to categorize types of buildings or artwork according to the correct tribal group. The details can easily become a hodgepodge of information with no clear delineations. One of the curricular goals is to show students that Native American tribes had very distinct cultures and this can be recognized when one compares their very different ways of life.

A card game is appropriate in this case because it provides practice in categorizing the various aspects of tribal life. Since it is a game, the students will be motivated, and they must be have a grasp of the content in order to be successful. The game design helps to reinforce the differences among Native American tribal groups and demonstrates the ways in which historians and anthropologists draw distinctions between cultural groups.


Process The game has a structure that is similar to rummy. It is played with 2-6 players who gain points by matching up sets of cards that belong to a particular suit. Each player is dealt 7 cards and the rest of the cards are placed face down (pick up pile) with the top card turned up (discard pile). The person left of the dealer takes a turn first by picking up a card from the pick up pile or the discard pile and laying down any "matches" that are allowed. The player must then discard and play goes to the next person. Play continues until one of the players has laid down all of his cards and then discarded. The winner is the player with the most points.


Deck Design

The deck consists of 56 cards which are divided into four suits. The suits represent the four major tribal groups, Plains Indians, Northwest Indians, Eastern Woodland Indians, and Southwest Indians. Each suit contains the same card categories and types. The cards, the categories, the types and the points they earn are shown in the chart below. Each of the four suits contains the following cards:

# of cards card category card type points ______________________________________________________

1 Wild card tribal group 15

1 Wild card animal 15

1 Wild card environment 15

1 Indian card adult male 10

1 Indian card adult female 10

1 Indian card child 10

2 Artifact card buildings 5

2 Artifact card tools and weapons 5

2 Artifact card crafts 5

2 Artifact card ceremonies 5

The tribal group card names the group and also lists three specific tribes that belong to the group. The animal card shows a picture of an animal that is associated with the tribal group. The environment card depicts the environment in which the group lived. For example, the Southwest Indian animal card shows a gecko sitting on a rock , and the environment card is a picture of a desert.


Rules The following is a list of all of the possible matches. A match is a set of three cards within the same suit.

1. An Indian card can be matched up with the other two Indian cards.

2. An artifact card can be matched up with two other artifact cards as long as they aren't the same type. For example, two craft cards cannot be in the same match.

3. The Wild cards can be used in any other match within the same suit or they can be matched up together.

4. A player cannot add to his own three card match, but he can play a card on another player's three card match. For example, if player A sets down a match that consists of a building, a craft, and a ceremony within the Plains Indians suit, then player B can set down one tool card within the Plains Indian suit and earn the 5 points for it.

5. The players can lay down matches whenever it is their turn, but they must do so before they discard.

6. The play continues until one of the players has discarded his last card.

7. Players add up their points from cards they have played and subtract points for the cards they still hold in their hand.

8. The winner is the player with the most points.


Card Design


Design Process The design was developed with specific learners and instructional goals in mind. As far as the content is concerned, there is some overlap between specific Indian tribes within a cultural group. For example, all of the Southwest Indian tribes have similar pottery designs, and it isn't necessary for the fifth grade students to discern the differences between them. Their cultures were very much alike, therefore I began by creating the four suits, and then listed the aspects of tribal life that historians use to distinguish between the different Indian groups.

I wanted the learners to be able to group the artifacts with the correct Indian group without a great deal of help. This is why the cards have a minimum of information on them and they are not color coded at all. They provide a picture, and in some cases, a term which names the picture.

The difficult decisions were concerning the rules of play. It was important to provide an opportunity for strategy development, but this had to be balanced with the instructional goals. At first, I was allowing cards of different suits to be played together. I realized however, that this would defeat my main instructional goal of having students keep the categories clear in their minds. Another problem with allowing players to match three tribal groups cards together (or three child cards) is that it would demand no thinking on the part of the player. In order to make up for the limited matches allowed, I made the three Wild cards which can be used more freely within the suit.

On the other hand, I didn't want the game to be so difficult that the players would get frustrated or worse, play cards inaccurately without knowing it. A necessary addition to this card game is a handheld chart that displays the tribal groups and the corresponding artifacts, environments, etc. In essence, it would be the content laid out in a visual chart. The teacher would have the option of allowing its use or not. Perhaps it could be used for the first few games while students checked their understanding of the content.


Listing of content Southwest Indians Northwest Indians

Title card: Hopi Title card: Tlinget

Navajo Haida

Pueblo Makah

Animal: gecko Animal: Orca whale

Environment: desert Environment: Pacific coast

buildings: adobe village buildings: plankhouse

buildings: hogan buildings: charnel house

tools and weapons: grinding stone tools and weapons: fish hook

tools and weapons: throwing stick tools and weapons: wooden armor

craft: gourd rattle craft: totem poles

craft: dream catcher craft: masks

ceremonial: kachina dance ceremonial: potlatch

ceremonial: kiva ceremonial: ceremonial bowl

Plains Indians Eastern Woodland Indians

Title card: Sioux Title card: Iraquois

Omaha Seminole

Witchita Creek

Animal: buffalo Animal: beaver

Environment: plains Environment: forest

buildings: teepee buildings: longhouse

buildings: grass house buildings: wigwam

tools and weapons: sinew backed bow tools and weapons: corn mortar

tools and weapons: hide shield tools and weapons: blowgun

craft: painting craft: birchbark container

craft: eagle talon necklace craft: wampum beads

ceremonial: pipe ceremonial: husk face mask dance

ceremonial: honor feather ceremonial: moundbuilding

Native American Rummy

designed by

Cara Lawler

Educational Technology 670

Games and Simulations

Department of Educational Technology

San Diego State University