Snow Snake Challenge brings people together for fun in the cold

By Ken Luchterhand

Clouds of white vapor wafted into the air as each person exhaled into the cold night.
Bright lights, powered by a nearby generator, offered long shadows and a bright glare into the long snow track. Excited voices echoed into the nearby trees and provided a friendly, yet surreal feeling as competitors prepared for their battle of Snow Snake.
The Snow Snake Challenge was held Friday evening, Feb. 15, behind the Tribal Office Building in Black River Falls.
Heritage Preservation Director Jon Greendeer organized the event.
“It was popular during our Winter Camp,” Greendeer said. “The energy level was very high out here. Winter is a little later this year, but we had a snowstorm to provide plenty of snow for this event.”
The object of the game is simple. Each competitor thrusts the stick down the long raised snow pathway as fast and strong as possible. When the stick comes to a stop, the distance is measured and the person with the furthest distance is the winner.
 “The thing about snow snake is that everyone can play. The champion at our Winter Camp was a young lady,” Greendeer said. “It brings people together.”
The native name for the competition is called “Sakoro” and it’s very popular with other Native American tribes as well, Greendeer said.
“The Shoshone tribe takes it very seriously and offers jackets for the winners of their competitions. They build the chute with extreme precision and no dirty snow is allowed that might slow down the gliding of the snake,” he said.
In symbolic terms, the snow run is a snake and the stick used to travel down the run is a snake as well. The stick has a head and a tail, which is tapered. The long wooden sticks were adorned with many designs; all created to slide down the snow chute while looking great for the journey.
Greendeer said plans are to build a snow run and have some competition at the end of the month at the Milwaukee Indian School.
Winners of the competition on Feb. 15 are as follows:

Men's 18 and Under
First: Jacob Blackdeer
Second: Randall Blackdeer
Third: Wilbur Blackdeer

Women's 18 and Under
First: Alexis Whitegull
Second: Memphis Cleveland
Third: Layla Lambert

Best throws 18 and under
Jacob Blackdeer: 200 feet
Alexis Whitegull: 158 feet

Men's 19-59
1. Dave Lambert: 203'
2. Zach Quackenbush: 200'
3. Chris Bird: 193'

Women's 19-59
1. Dana DeBoer: 127'
2. Michelle Greendeer-Rave: 108'
3. Dawn Lambert: 106'

60 and up
1st Ona-Garvin: 84'