Carved Pipe bowl; Indigenous peoples, North America


This pipe bowl is one of four pipe bowls in the De Peyster collection, each is decorated differently. Tobacco originated in the Americas and smoking featured in many types of ceremonies and rituals. It was believed that the smoke helped to carry messages to the spirits, the ritual was a way of connecting to the energies of the universe. Figures depicted on pipes, which faced the smoker, often represented their personal guardian spirit. The sacrament of smoking is very important and pipe ceremonies were often used to confirm a covenant or a treaty. The L-shaped red stone pipe, in the form of a human head, possibly from catlinite, a claystone found locally and were commonly used in peace ceremonies. The animal rising from the stem, facing the head, is probably a bear. Bears had strong symbolic links to many of the tribes situated around the Great Lakes. The Ojibwe (Chippewa) People believed that bears were the spiritual representation of their grandparents, or ancestors. The pipe bowls in the collection were most likely gifted to De Peyster at a meeting of the Nations of the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi, in 1775.