Native American ceremonial pipes, also known as calumets or peace pipes have been in use for at least 4000 years. These pipes have evolved from simple one piece pipes with a relatively short stem integral to the pipe, to the well known two piece pipe and stem that we have seen in movies and which is like the one shown at the top of this page which was made by Choctaw Indian artist Argus Dowdy and member of this gallery. The associated decoration has also evolved over the centuries from simple pipes perhaps with human or animal effigies to elaborate inlaid pipe bowls, that may or may not have effigies, with beautifull stems adorned with plaited quills or intricate beadwork and attached feathers.
The traditional use of the pipe was ceremonial a tradition in which the smoking mixture was the embodiment of the prayers to the creator. The smoking of the pipe releasing those prayers to be carried to the creator. In addition the eagle feathers that are frequently attached to the pipe stem were used to envoke the eagle spirit to help carry the prayers to the creator. The decoration of the pipe is traditionally a personal thing where the decoration is influenced by the dreams, visions, hunting, and war experiences of its owner. Various animal protectors might be used in the decoration as well as significant colors. Red was often used when the prayers were concerned with the outcome of a battle or war.
As tobacco became commercially available Indian pipes began to be used for non-ceremonial uses. This may have been due to the influence of the 'white man' and his smoking habits as well as the fact that the commercial tobacco was a milder flavor than the traditional indian tobacco mixtures.
For more information on Native American pipes and to see some beautiful authentic hand made pipes for sale please visit the shop of Argus Dowdy, one of our artists, at Four Winds Indian Art.