Media Release: First Annual Tri-District Lahal Tournament Celebrates Indigenous Game that is Bringing Students and Community Together

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

First Annual Tri-District Lahal Tournament Celebrates Indigenous Game that is Bringing Students and Community Together

VICTORIA, BC ─ The Indigenous Education Department of the Greater Victoria School District in collaboration with Spectrum Community School hosted the first annual Lahal Tournament today on Tuesday, May 14. The District was joined by staff, students, and community members from Sooke School District, Saanich School District, and the W̱SÁNEĆ School Board. The tournament was honoured to share the event with Elders and connected community members.

Over 280 students, forming 26 teams and representing more than 15 schools played in the tournament with an additional group of about 200 more students, staff, and community members in attendance to witness the event.

Teams from Esquimalt, W̱SÁNEĆ, Spectrum, and Reynolds respectively brought home the top four prizes for their schools. Prizes included a custom Lahal set beautifully crafted by Victoria High School student Chris August for each of the top four teams.

Lahal (also known as Slahal) is an Indigenous game of chance. Traditionally, the game was created to settle disputes and was played with animal bones or antlers. In more recent times, the game is played for entertainment and uses wooden sticks which range from natural wood to expertly carved or painted game pieces.

“I learned Lahal from Brother Rick who taught a group of us at an educational staff retreat in September,” said Michelle Newman-Bennett, Counsellor and Cultural Support at Spectrum Community School. “I enjoyed the game so much that I taught other teachers and students and it grew from there. Staff and students were playing at lunchtime and after school. Soon, the idea of a tournament was formed and I’m so proud of the teamwork that made this event happen.”

“The students and children in our community give me a lot of hope,” said Cowichan Tribes Elder Raymond Jones Peter, or Brother Rick as our learning community knows him. “They have such respect for each other and for Indigenous ways. They are eager to learn and to teach each other. Because that’s how we all learn. All of us, no matter our age, are all learners.”

“I’m just glowing today,” added Songhees Elder Frank George. “The Indigenous Education Department led by Dr. Shelly Niemi and the Indigenous Cultural Support team is helping keep our culture. They are focused on the teachings of our ancestors.”

Lahal is played between two teams using two sets of “bones” (one striped pair, and one unstriped pair), scoring sticks, and a “king” stick—an extra stick for the team that begins the game. One team conceals sets of bones within their hands, while the other team tries to win scoring sticks by guessing the location of the unstriped bones.

Throughout the game, the team that has the bones is accompanied by drummers and singers that try to distract the team that is guessing. During this event, songs gifted by Elders were played, creating an energetic atmosphere felt throughout the whole school. At the end of the event everyone in attendance played a celebratory song to honour the winners.

There are already plans for next year to make the Lahal Tournament even bigger and to grow the energy and passion that the game has for bringing people together.


Media Contact:
Greater Victoria School District


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