Peace Pipe

Native Indian Life

Peace Pipe
Facts and history about the life and lifestyles of Native American Indians. The sacred pipes used by Native Americans are known by by various names including the Calumet, the Great Pipe, the Medicine Pipe and the Peace Pipe. The ceremonial smoking pipe, called a Calumet, was often used to seal a peace treaty, hence the term 'Peace Pipe'.

Sacred Pipes were used in sacred, central rituals and tobacco ceremonies of Native Americans. Pipes were the most potent symbols in these rites demonstrating harmony and brotherly love. However, the Calumet was also used to offer prayers in religious rituals and ceremonies and during war councils.

Native American Life - Peace Pipe
The life, history and lifestyle of Native American Indians is a varied and fascinating subject. The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on the Peace Pipe, also referred to as the Calumet. It was believed that tobacco was a gift from the Great Mystery, and that the exhaled tobacco smoke carried thoughts and prayers to heaven.

Peace Pipe Fact Sheet for kids

  • Peace Pipe Fact 1: The name of the Otoe Native American Indian, in the above picture by George Catlin, is We-ke-r-law, meaning "He Who Exchanges". He holds a pipe carved with an effigy
  • Peace Pipe Fact 2: The French word 'calumet' means "pipe" is derived from the Latin word 'calamus' meaning "something made or shaped like a reed"
  • Peace Pipe Fact 3: Fire symbolized the heart of the Native American people and its smoke, which could be created in pipes, carried prayers to the Great Spirit
  • Peace Pipe Fact 4: Pipes are believed to have originated in the Southeast, and early tube pipes have been found in the ancient burial mounds
  • Peace Pipe Fact 5: The use of sacred pipes in religious ceremonies and rituals spread across the length and breadth of the North American continent and became an important part of the culture of the Native Americans.
  • Peace Pipe Fact 6: Sacred Pipes were considered as holy objects and treated with great veneration. They were the containers that held a burning offering and linked the user, via the stem and the smoke, to the unseen world and the Great Spirit.
  • Peace Pipe Fact 7: The distinguishing characteristic of the sacred pipes is that the bowl is separable from the stem and the two parts are kept apart except during ritual use
  • Peace Pipe Fact 8: The two parts equated to the pairing of female and male spiritual powers which, when combined, results in creation. The stem was symbolically male and the bowl was symbolically female
  • Peace Pipe Fact 9: It was only when the stem was inserted in the bowl that the pipe became potent. The two parts were therefore kept apart and only joined at the beginning of the sacred ceremonies, and separated at the end of the ritual.
  • Peace Pipe Fact 10: A common material used by many of the Plains Indians for making the calumet bowls was red Minnesota pipestone or catlinite. other redstones came Wisconsin, Ohio and Alabama. But many other different types and colors were also used. The Yuchi & Creek tribes used mostly argillite (black) and dolostones. The Cherokee often used a dark greenstone that which they often darkened with a walnut stain
  • Peace Pipe Fact 11: The design and size of the Peace pipes varied according to the purpose and symbolism of its use. Some were constructed with a very long stem that enabled the, often hot, pipe to be offered with both hands.

Long stem peacepipe

  • Peace Pipe Fact 12:  It was traditional for the stem to be decorated with symbolic items befitting of the consecrated use of the pipe. The pipestem was often painted with symbolic designs, colors and symbols and bedecked with a
    beads and feathers. The end of the stem often served as a base for effigy ornamentation. The Pipe tomahawk, or 'smoak tomahawk' combined both the hatchet and the pipe in one single item - symbols of both war and peace
  • Peace Pipe Fact 13: Tobacco (Nicotianna tabacum/rusticum) was a sacred and valuable commodity and was used as a type of incense, a sacred offering and during special rituals including those involving Spiritual Healing, the Sweat Lodge rituals and the famous Vision Quest.
  • Peace Pipe Fact 14: Tobacco was often mixed with other plant products and herbs that were fragrant or sustained burning, confirming the incense nature of its use. Kinnikinnick, meaning 'mixture', was made from a mixture of various leaves or barks
  • Peace Pipe Fact 15: Kinnikinnick included plants such as Sage, Sassafras bark, Dogwood bark, Coltsfoot, Bearberry, cedar chips and Sumac leaves, Lobelia leaves and Mullein leaves. Kinnikinnick was also placed in the fire for their aroma and smoke which lifted to the heavens taking with it the hopes and prayers and the people
  • Peace Pipe Fact 16: The 'Peace Pipe' was a central feature of Pow-Wows, which was the name given to important gatherings or meetings. The pipe ceremony consecrated peace alliances. A Native American would not break the words that were spoken in the presence of the sacred peacepipe. The smoke symbolized truth that went directly to Great Spirit, the Great Mystery.
  • Peace Pipe Fact 17: During ceremonies and rituals the peacepipe was nearly always passed by carefully cradling of the bowl in a clockwise direction which represented the travel of the sun. At the end of the ritual the peacepipe was dismantled to be stored separately and the ashes returned to the earth and blessed.
  • Peace Pipe Fact 18:  Peace Pipes were an important part of the symbolic regalia and sacred objects used by Medicine Men. Some Medicine Men used pipes with a series of holes, referred to as "cloudblowers", for sending symbolic puffs of smoke in different directions during their rituals
  • Peace Pipe Fact 19: Flutes had special connections with the sacred pipes used by many of the tribes. The two objects complimented each other with breathe being inhaled through the pipes and exhaled when playing flutes
  • Peace Pipe Fact 20: The open display of a 'Peace Pipe' was used as a passport of peace and acceptance when traveling in distant regions amongst unknown tribes.
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