Ceremonial Pipes

Among many tribes, one of the most sacred ways to pray is through a ceremony centered on the smoking of a pipe. After the pipe stem is inserted into the bowl, the whole pipe is smudged, or cleansed, in sage smoke. Tobacco is placed into the pipe bowl and tucked in with a pipe tamper, and the pipe is then lighted and smoked by each of the participants as they pray.

—George P. Horse Capture (A´aninin), 2009

Hunkpapa Lakota medicine shield, ca. 1870. South Dakota or North Dakota. Paint, hide, and wood. (21/3663)

The horned horse on this shield, surrounded by lightning marks, stars, and hail, was a messenger of the Thunder Beings, the powerful supernatural creatures who bring the storms of summer.

Sioux pipe tamper, late 1800s. South Dakota or North Dakota. Wood and pigment. (15/4760)


Sisseton Dakota pipe bowl with stem, ca. 1870. South Dakota. Catlinite pipestone, wood, mallard feathers, porcupine quills, horsehair, ribbon, wool cloth, and sinew. Photograph by Katherine Fogden, NMAI. (3/3728)


Kiowa Apache pipe bowl and stem, ca. 1880. Oklahoma. Stone and wood. (3/6496)