Participants enjoy a game of snowsnake (Courtesy Kevin Vickers)

Winter Fun, Native Style: Play Snowsnake at New York’s Finger Lakes

Tish Leizens

If you like the cold, snowy weather, head out with your family to the Finger Lakes region, in the Rochester area of New York, and join the Seneca people for outdoor games, sports and fun.

You can plan your weekend or weeklong vacation around the popular Native American Winter Games & Sports, February 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., to be held at the Victor Municipal Park in Victor, New York. The event is free, but there is a suggested donation of $5 per family.

And while you are there, take a breath of fresh country air and enjoy the walking and educational trails offered by the Ganondagan State Historic Site, two miles away from the park, or visit some historical and cultural exhibits within a 30-mile radius.

“We want to show that Native people from this area didn’t just stay in their Longhouses. They did not just hunker down during winter,” said Ronnie Reitter, (Seneca) interpreter and assistant to the site manager at the Ganondagan State Historic Site.

So, snow or no snow, mark your calendars. Your Native tribal host will test your throwing skill at the traditional game of snowsnake, a popular and competitive Seneca winter pastime. “Everybody can try the snowsnake,” said Reitter. “This competition is just good, old fun.” The object of the snowsnake game is to throw the snowsnake—made from wood—down a long, snow-packed track. The player who throws the farthest wins.


A site along the winter hiking trail in Ganondagan ( up in your winter jackets and if you want to bring snowshoes, do so. You may want to trek the trails at the park or join the walking group that will identify medicinal and other Native plants. There will be snowshoes for rent too.

The Dog Sledding Demonstration is definitely a crowd pleaser. Watch a dog sled team race across the snow. “Everybody loves to be around the animals,” said Reitter.

Live demonstrations are planned for the day. These include woodcrafts and other traditional arts practiced by the Natives during winter. For your listening pleasure, storytellers, in 45-minute sessions, will entertain with traditional Haudenosaunee legends and stories. And food, of course, warm Native delights are available for purchase.


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