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Calumet - Usually termed the "peace pipe" by the white man, the calumet Calumet - The Indian Peace Pipe.or Grand Pipe was one of the most profoundly sacred objects to the Indian from the West Coast to the Rockies.  It was important in all religious, war, and peace ceremonies.  It was a war pipe as well as a peace pipe.

The calumet was smoked by representatives of tribes to seal a peace pact and to assure a friendship which already existed.  It was used to bring about good weather and ideal conditions for journeys and for the hunt.  It also was smoked to bring rain.  Its use banished evil and brought about good.  it assured victory and the death of enemies who were named during a chant while it was smoked.  A dance was sometimes held in honor of the calumet.

When the early French explorers came into the Mississippi Valley, they were received by the Indians with the "Dance of the Calumet."  Those presented with a calumet were able to approach all other Indians as friends, simply by holding the pipe out in front of them.  The flag which General John Charles Fremont, "The Pathfinder," used when he crossed the continent first showed a bundle of arrows.  This meant war to the Indians, and he soon changed the symbol to that of a calumet crossed with arrows in the talons of an eagle, and was then received as a friend.

The calumet was at first simply a bunch of sacred reeds or a shaft.  (The white man's word comes from the French term, which was derived from the Latin calamus, meaning tube or reed.)  later the Indians' bundle of reeds was combined with an altar, or pipe bowl, in burning tobacco tot eh gods.  Thus when the calumet was smoked, friendship was sanctioned by the gods.

The calumet shaft usually was highly decorated with feathers, skins, and heads of birds, hair, quillwork, or beadwork.  When was was planned, feathers on the shaft were painted red.  The pipe bowl was often highly carved.

Stone pipes were used by many Indians.  They made journeys to the Pipestone Quarry in southwest Minnesota to obtain a red claystone.  This was first noted by the American traveler George Catlin, and after threat the stone bore the name of "catlinite" in honor of him.  The Comanche, Ute, Bannock, and Shoshoni used a rather soft stone of greenish color.  The shinbones of the deer and antelope were also used, and some Plains tribes employed the thick neck muscles of the buffalo and bull elk, twisted into shape and dried.

The white man manufactured a pipe-tomahawk for trade with the Indians.  It had a steel head and hollow hammer.


Related Information within this Site
[ Altar ][ Bury the Hatchet ][ Catlin ][ Featherwork ]
[ Hairwork ][ Mound Builders ][ Quillwork ][ Tobacco ]