The Historic Period produced
the largest numbers of catlinite pipes. From the Rockies to the Atlantic
they begin to appear in every imaginable form. The majority of these
pipes were being produced as commercial products. Both Native American
Indians and Europeans were producing them. But European Americans began
to produce them in earnest.
HUMAN EFFIGY PIPE
This rare human effigy pipe was purchased several years ago from a
member of the Meskwaki tribe in Iowa. It is an L-shaped pipe with a
square stem and a raised square at the end of the stem. The raised
square has an X engraved on both sides. The bowl is carved into an
oblong shape with thin sides. The face is animated with an
expression of surprise or wonder. The eyes are wide and the mouth is
fully open. The eyes are also inlayed with lead. This pipe measures
2 1/2 inches (6.3 cm) long.
that by 1900, "The Indians sell much of the stone to the whites, who
have taken up the manufacture of pipes and various utensils and
trinkets, using lathes and other devices to aid in the work." He further
writes that, "In a letter by Mr. Bennett dated 1892 it is stated that
not 1 percent of the pipes then made and disposed of were of Indian
This pipe was discovered in a $3.00 tool box that was purchased
at an estate sale. It was rolled up in a rag in the bottom of the
box. This style of pipe is identified as a Menominee tribe pipe from
Wisconsin. These are very elaborately designed and constructed
pipes. The V-shape is a fairly rare style of catlinite
pipe. This pipe was made in two pieces. The bowl is separate from
the stem. The stem and bowl are square except for a round section at
the end of the stem. The bottom of the pipe has a Micmac style keel
with notches cut all around and V-shape engravings on both sides.
The bowl also has engraved diamonds on both sides. Another added
decoration is several strands of string or cord that was tied to the base.
The V-shape required the maker to drill one hole at the base of the
pipe to connect both of the vertical holes. The inset picture at
lower right shows the catlinite plug that was used to fill the
horizontally drilled hole. Dark staining inside the bowl indicates
that this pipe was smoked. This pipe measures 10 1/2 inches (26.6
cm) long and 6 1/2 inches (16.5 cm) wide.
European traders began manufacturing pipes from red catlinite during the
fur trading years to trade with the Indians as far away as the
Northwest. In a meeting of the American Philosophical Society in 1866 a
Mr. Hayden reported that, "In the two years just passed the Northwestern
Fur Company had manufactured nearly 2,000 pipes and traded them with the
tribes of the upper Missouri." Holmes reports that when he visited the
Pipestone quarry in 1892 he visited with a pipe maker who was
established nearby. He was using lathes and drills to produce, "a great
variety of articles supplied to the trinket market of Pipestone and
PHOTO BY DENNIS VESPER---PRIVATE
CHICKEN EFFIGY PIPE
This catlinite pipe was carved with the head of a chicken that faces
away from the smoker. It was found in northern Kentucky sometime in
the 1950's near a mound that had been reduced in height from
plowing. An estimated age for this pipe is sometime in the early
1800's. This pipe measures 5 1/4 inches (10.8 cm) long and 3 inches
(7.6 cm) high.
Catlinite pipes were manufactured for different reasons. As previously
mentioned, most of them were made for commercial trade during the later
half of the historic period. But the most important and original use of
red catlinite pipes was for sacred rites and ceremonies. The term
calumet is used to identify these most important pipes. Different tribes
enforced very specific rules for a calumet's design, construction,
storage and ceremonial use. Different pipes were assigned to specific
situations. There were pipes for commerce and trade and for other social
and political purposes. There were also pipes for war and other pipes
BISON LEG EFFIGY PIPE
SALINE COUNTY, MISSOURI
This red catlinite pipe is reported
to have been found sometime before 1953 in Blackwater Creek in
Saline County, Missouri. It's unique for it's uncommon design of a
bison's leg. The wrap around design on the bowl is inlayed with
lead. This pipe has been illustrated in "The Missouri
Archaeologist, Vol. 15, #3 in 1953 and in "Red Pipes, Indian Smoking
Pipes Of The American Frontier." It was once in Henry W. Hamilton's
collection, who authored a book on Spiro mounds. This pipe measures
3 7/8 inches (9.8 cm) long.
The sacred calumet pipes were used for all things important, such as:
passports by ambassadors when traveling, in ceremonies designed to
conciliate foreign and hostile nations, to formalize peace, to ratify
the alliance between friendly tribes, to secure favorable weather for a
journey, to bring needed rains or to certify contracts and treaties that
must not be violated. The ceremony may also include a chant or a dance
to call upon one or more of the gods. McGuire writes that, "The accounts
of all early American voyagers, with scarcely and exception, who have
come in first contact with the Indians have referred to the common
employment of tobacco in all treaties, councils, and, in fact functions
of every kind, including social gatherings, in divination, and in the
care of disease."
EUROPEAN STYLE PIPE
MADISON COUNTY, ILLINOIS
This pipe is reported to have been found in Madison County,
Illinois. The u-shape would seem to indicate a European design that
would have needed a reed stem to smoke it. The atypical drilling
style is more complicated than most pipes. Drilling was done from three directions
which is the reason for the catlinite plug that can be seen in the
picture to the right. This pipe measures 1 7/8 inches (4.7 cm) high
and 2 3/8 inches (6 cm) wide.
The people living in the eastern United States during the Middle
Woodland and Mississippian Periods were involved in an impressive
network of trade. Obsidian from Yellowstone traveled as far east as Ohio
and Pennsylvania. Copper from the Great lakes was traded far to the
south and marine shells were finding their way as far west as North
Dakota. These important connections with many different tribes must have
involved treaties that would have been reinforced from time-to-time with
the use of calumet pipes.
This pipe is reported to have been collected in Iowa from a member
of the Meskwaki (Fox) tribe of native American Indians. This
L-shaped pipe has a square bowl and a round stem that terminates
with a multi-faceted ring. This pipe could have been smoked directly
from the stem. It measures 2 3/8 inches (6 cm) long.
Unless a pipe has with
it an oral or written history or shows some manner of above average
construction or use wear there may be no way to know for certain if any
one of the multitudes of pipes found on sites are calumet pipes.
Hamilton writes that, "The term calumet has often been employed to
denote some of the more important-appearing pipes that are presumed to
have been used by certain groups in connection with their most serious
government, religious, war-making, or treaty-making activities." There
is no certain way to identify calumet pipes, especially the ancient
PHOTO FROM SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY
BULLETIN 60, 1919
This old photograph is titled "The Sioux At Work With Steel Tools."
It illustrates how the pipestone was quarried with modern hammers
and pry bars in more recent times. The first people there would have used
stone mauls and pry bars made of wood. The thin layer of pipestone
lay between massive layers of quartzite and required great effort to
remove the stone. It's reported that originally there was a line of
ancient pits from ten to twenty feet deep that extended for about a
mile along a low ridge. These ancient pits were later obliterated by
A total of 208 pipes
of various types were found on the Utz site in Saline County, Missouri.
Some of them were probably used as calumet pipes but most of them were
probably used by individuals. But traditionally, pipe smoking even for
an individual was still a serious matter. Barrett writes that, "To the
Indian of the old school, the one who is still a devout believer in the
dream and medicine dances, and who sees the head of the supernatural in
many phases of his daily life, tobacco may be said to be used, even at
the present day, in a strictly religious manner."
PHOTO FROM SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY
BULLETIN 60, 1919
This old photograph is titled "Indian miner breaking up the exposed
margin of the pipestone layer." In order to expose the layer of
pipestone a considerable amount of soil and quartzite had to be
The pipestone bearing stratum varies
from 10 to 20 inches thick but the band of pure, fine-grained
catlinite rarely measures more than 3 to 4 inches thick. A piece of
catlinite two inches thick is all that is needed to make most pipes.
could be written on the subject of catlinite pipes. They have involved
all manner of human life. From great events of war and peace to an
individuals connection with the supernatural. They have been used in
commercial trade across much of the United States and they have been a
fascination for people ever since they were first described. It's
remarkable to think how important some of these carved stone objects
were to groups of people now lost in time.
1899, McGuire, Joseph D., "Pipes And
Smoking Customs Of The American Aborigines, Based On Material In The
U.S. National Museum," Annual Report, Smithsonian Institution, Part 1,
1905, West, George A., "The Aboriginal Pipes Of Wisconsin," The
Wisconsin Archaeologist, Vol. 4, Nos. 3 & 4, p.50 & 92-97 & 130-141.
1911, Barrett, S. A., "Smoking
Customs," The Dream Dance Of The
Chippewa And Menominee Indians Of Northern Wisconsin, Bulletin,
Public Museum, Milwaukee, Vol. 1, p. 360.
1919, Hodge, Frederick Webb "Catlinite," and "Calumet," Handbook of American
Indians North Of Mexico, part 1, pp. 191-195 & 217.
1919, Holmes, W. H., "The Red Pipestone Quarry," Handbook of American
antiquities, Part I, Introductory The Lithic Industries, pp.
1934, West, George A., "Methods Of Manufacture Of Aboriginal
Tobacco, Pipes And Smoking Customs Of The American Indians, p. 334 &
1967, Hamilton, Henry W., "Tobacco Pipes Of The Missouri
Indians," pp. 1-42.
Personal Communication, Dennis Vesper.
Personal Communication, Charley Wagers.
Personal Communication, Bruce Filbrandt.
Personal Communication, Ray Fraser