Syracuse.com/Mike Greenlar
A snake jumps off the track during a competitors throw.

Snow Snake Is Winter’s Wind-up With a Bang

ICTMN Staff
3/17/14

Winter may be slowly fading away (Spring begins on Thursday), but it wasn’t too late in the season to throw a snake or two down the old snow track. On March 14, the Onondaga Nation started a snow snake game competition that went on throughout the weekend.

The wooden snakes that were used in the games (Mike Greenlar/Syracuse.com)

Mike Greenlar, of Syracuse.com, photographed the competition and wrote about the games:

“The game of snow snake started as a means of communication between Haudenosaunee villages over 500 years ago. Men would scribe onto the wooden snakes in charcoal to send messages onto the next village via a long snow track. I was fortunate to photograph a recent game in March at the Onondaga Nation. The games go on for both days of the weekend. There are two lengths of snakes used: the long six foot snakes and the shorter thicker mudcats, about three feet long. The men play for side wages to cover expenses for the winners. Bigger purses are available during the tournaments thanks to sponsors.”

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The name "snow snake" is said to have come from the serpentine wiggling motion of the poles as they slide down the icy track, Wikipedia said. The best throwers also won bragging rights until the next season.  

You can see all of the photos from Greenlar’s photo essay by clicking here.

 
 

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