"Calumet" (ultimately from a French dialectical term for a straw) is the term given to smoking pipes distributed over much of North America, both in pre-contact times and up to the present. Found especially among tribes in the Prairies and Great Plaines, calumets were traditionally used in various ways:
… by ambassadors and other travelers as a passport; to secure favorable weather for journeys; to bring needed rain; in ceremonies designed to placate foes and hostile tribes; to ratify alliances between friendly tribes; and to make binding any sort of contract or treaty. … Its most important use was in peace ceremonies in which representatives of both sides smoked the pipe of peace amidst the singing and dancing of a formal character in keeping with the gravity of the occasion.
[Harold E. Driver 1961 Indians of North America, Chicago: U. of Chicago Press. Pp.93.]
The great majority of pipes were made of catlinite, a kind of hard red clay (or soft red stone) occurring in only one location dominated, which was by the Sioux. The typical pipe was composed of a pipe bowl carved of catlinite plus a removable and separately carried pipe stem, often made in two halves slit lengthwise to facilitate hollowing it out. Trade both in catlinite and in finished pipe bowls involved a vast network covering territory from Ohio to the Rockies.
Click here for More About Catlinite.
Content Revised: 2009-09-02
Software Last Modified: 2020-06-13
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