"The early pipes were made from a leg bone of the buffalo or deer, this style would be a tube style of pipe, some were also made of clay. These materials were not durable though, bone would eventually deteriorate and clay was too fragile. Other materials were also used such as steatite, argillite and sandstone. These materials were hard and difficult to fashion with other stone tools and implements, these types were few and rare. " - Chuck Derby


Native American cultures are very political nowdays, the larger tribes are very careful about what they share with non-natives. The Lakota (the western bands of what we know as the Sioux) especially are very exclusive when it comes to their seven sacred rites and ceremonies. In every ceremony and rite the Chanupa (Pipe) is integral, without the pipe no ceremonies could be undertaken. It takes the prayers, and the cries, and the breath of the invisible to the Creator via the smoke. It is a very important Being.

A Chanupa has it's own life, it's own energies. These come from the piece of stone that chooses to be used for the bowl, the energies of the person who quarried the stone and who crafts the bowl and finally the person who adopts the finished Chanupa and puts their energy and caring into it. This finished Chanupa then is the center of the universe to the person who has been chosen by the pipe to be it's carer. Chanupa's have a life of their own, they know what is happening around them and they have a sense of humour with their teachings, because the pipe does teach the holder. It becomes a life-long partnership; the Chanupa and the holder, the holder and the Chanupa.

Many people do not want the heavy responsibility of holding a Chanupa. When you hold one your life is no longer your own, it belongs to the entity which is the Pipe. You must as a holder, every day smoke your pipe for the people, you must never be disrespectful around the pipe, this includes swearing, drinking, speaking in a negative manner, and basically anything else that you would not do in front of your mother.

Taking drugs is a big no no for a person who uses a Pipe. The pipe can take the holder to the heights and beyond more than any drug can. People in the Native American Church who smoke Peyote can never mix with those who are Pipe holders, and vice versa.

A Pipe holder is in many instances a Sundancer, a person who goes through a spiritual, torturous experience every year for the People. These sundancers are those who have pledged to allow their bodies to be pushed to the limit to enable the People's prayers to be heard and answered. This is not something that everyone can do. They have to sacrifice much for as long as they are a Sundancer. Some people take on this ordeal for just a four year pledge, others do it for as long as they are able, until they can no longer walk in some cases. All Sundancers must pledge, and keep to their pledge, to smoke their pipe every day, and to lead an impeccable lifestyle, putting the People first. If they cannot keep to their pledge then they cannot dance. All sundancers are pipe holders but not all pipe holders are sundancers.

The pipe will make you get up at any hour of the day or night to smoke it, it will not allow you to finish what you are doing before you smoke it. It controls you, not you it. That is one of the reasons why it is a great responsibility. Another reason is that YOU and you alone will be taking care to take another person's prayer and blend it into the tobacco, this has to be done correctly or the prayer could be lost. It must be said the right way or the wrong thing could happen to the person who asked you to pray for them. Your wording and your state of mind has to be the best it can be because you are like an angel at that point taking and sending the person's pleas to the highest being there is, the Creator of all, Wakan Tanka.

I said that today things are very political, and I would like to give you a URL that shows the depths of this. A statement was put out last year by Arvol Looking Horse, the keeper of the original White Buffalo Calf Woman Chanupa. It is on the front page of the URL. The other pages are updates and comments from people worldwide to the statement. They sent them in to me and I made up the website. I thought you might want to read the whole thing instead of me just cutting and pasting the statements here. http://www.geocities.com/wahohwahpe/ban1.html

We are not elitist when it comes to the pipe, we have seen pipes chose their holders too many times to say that certain people should not have a pipe. However when a pipe has been treated badly for a long time, and that includes keeping it in a drawer for many years, or having it on the wall on show, it takes on the energies of the abuse or the abuser. It changes it's role and can become a negative force that can be dangerous to the holder. Even people who have been holders for many years cannot handle negative energy pipes, and so they bury them back into the Earth Mother's arms. Those negative energies could encompass a novice so please be careful where you obtain your pipe from. We are not saying that you should not be a holder of a pipe but just be careful of the source. If you have had a calling to have a Chanupa then who are we to say you cannot do so.

If you would like to learn more about the Pipe and Pipestone the place where the stone to make the pipes comes from. Little Feather Center

If you have any questions please contact either myself or Chuck Derby,

Mitakuye Owasin, Gloria Hazell-Derby


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Copyright of words and photos: Gloria Hazell 2004 All rights reserved.