American Indian pipes

The oldest tobacco pipes of the North American Indians have a simple tubular shape, like in Central America, but are made of stone. Also for the peace pipe or calumet a bowl of natural stone was used on a carved wooden stem. As stone the Indians used red catlinite. The chief of the tribe was responsible for the pipe, which was used ceremonially.

The most famous Indian pipe is the tomahawk, a pipe in the shape of a battle axe. The pipe bowl is right above the blade of the axe. The handle of the axe is pierced in order to smoke. The tomahawk was imported to America in large numbers by the Europeans to trade with the Indians for fur hides. The tomahawk was not used for chopping, as many people think, it is a deadly throwing weapon.

The Haida on the west coast of Canada used a gray-black stone, argilite, for their pipes. They are masters of exuberant pieces of carved art in which original and unexpected figures and masks occur. Sometimes even European clay pipes were cut into stone. The more northerly Tlingit tribe made pipes out of local woods, often painted in various colours.

The Inuit in the far north used tooth and bone material to make their pipes. The shape of the walrus teeth is clearly recognizable in the upwardly curved stem of the pipe. Many pipes are decorated with engravings, highlighted with black dye. In South America, a wooden tubular pipe was common with a triangular mouthpiece resembling a fish tail.

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