Lakota Pipe Bowl and Stem: Anthropology Object of the Month for May 2011

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This pipe was made by Charlie Walking Cloud, a member of the Lakota Sioux tribe of North Dakota. In the 1930's Walking Cloud gave the pipe to US Army Corporal John Spare in a gesture of gratitude for Spare's longtime friendship and service to the Lakota that served in his unit during World War I. Walking Cloud also adopted Spare into the Lakota tribe as his son. The pipe, and other objects given to Spare by Walking Cloud, were donated to the DMNS by Spare's daughter Paula Holmberg in 2008. Lakota pipe bowls and pipe stems are traditionally not connected to each other unless in use, as a joined pipe bowl and pipe stem has a powerful spiritual meaning. This pipe was donated with the stem and bowl connected, which required them to be separated following a specific protocol by a Lakota pipe carrier.

In North America, pipes have had widespread use for numerous political and ceremonial purposes including greeting newcomers, facilitating trade, making peace, declaring war, honoring individuals, performing rites of passage, marriages, mortuary practices, funerals, and personal use. (1,2,3)

Over time, pipe bowls were made in a variety of shapes and sizes with some styles being  attributed to specific time periods. Walking Cloud's pipe bowl is called an elbow pipe, a style which is predominantly linked to the Proto-Historic and Historic periods. During the Historic period, Europeans also began making elbow pipes and mass producing them for trade. Elbow pipes are also called rectangular, L-shaped, T-shaped, Siouan (4) or calumet style after the calumet pipe ceremonies documented during the Historic period. (5) Pipe stems were made of pipestone, wood, reed, or cane and are considered by some to be of more significance than the pipe bowls. (6)

Walking Cloud's pipe bowl and stem are made of "pipestone" which is a generic term used to describe any carvable, yet durable stone used to make pipes. A well known pipestone is catlinite, which is named for George Catlin, the artist and explorer who first described in writing the catlinite quarry in 1836. (7) Catlinite is the red and reddish-pink, quartz free, metamorphic argillite with a specific mineralogical signature that is only found in the pipestone quarry of southwestern Minnesota. (8,9,10) The catlinite quarry was used by American Indians for several centuries, and heavily used by Europeans beginning in the 1800s. In 1937 the catlinite quarry became Pipestone National Monument, a neutral and sacred area that is open to the visiting public but can only be quarried by Native Americans. Other pipestone outcroppings that are similar in color to catlinite and are often mistaken for it are found in Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. (11,12,13)

Due to the red color, Walking Cloud's pipe may be made of catlinite. However, because of the different geological sources of red pipestone in North America, it should not be assumed that every red pipestone is catlinite. To correctly identify pipestone and other materials including ceramics, lithics, and bone, archaeologists team with physical scientists to perform archaeometric tests such as chemical and elemental analysis.

Pipestone is the particular research interest of Collections Assistant Bridget Sabo. This particular item was chosen and researched by her.


1.  Ian Brown, "The Calumet Ceremony in the Southeast and Its Archaeological Manifestations," American Antiquity 54(2) (1989): 311-331.

2.  Robert Hall, "Weeping Greetings and Dancing the Calumet," Archaeology of the Soul: North American Indians Belief and Ritual (Urbana: University of Illinois Press 1997), 1-8.

3.  Donald J. Blakeslee, "The Origin and Spread of the Calumet Ceremony," American Antiquity 46(4) (1981): 759-768.

4.  George West, Tobacco Pipes and Smoking Customs of American Indians (Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum, 1934), 231.

5.  James W. Springer, "An Ethnohistoric Study of the Smoking Complexes in Eastern North America," Ethnohistory 28(3) (1981): 217-235.

6.  West, Tobacco Pipes and Smoking Customs of the American Indians, 265-268.

7.  West, Tobacco Pipes and Smoking Customs of the American Indians, 330.

8.   James Gunderson, "Wisconsin Pipestone: A Preliminary Mineralogical Examination," The Wisconsin Archaeologist  68(1) (1987): 1-19.

9.  James Gunderson, "Catlinite and the Spread of the Calumet Ceremony," American Antiquity 58(3) (1993): 560-562.

10.  Thomas Emerson and Randall Hughes, "De-mything the Cahokia Catlinite Trade," Plains Anthropologist 46(1745) (2001): 149-161.

11.  Robert F. Boszhardt and James Gunderson, "X-Ray Powder Diffraction Analysis of Early and Middle Woodland Red Pipes From Wisconsin," Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology  28(1) (2003): 33-48.

12.  John H. Broihahn, "Wisconsin's Pipestones: Comments on the History, Archaeology, and Cultural Aspects of Wisconsin's Pipestones," (Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society Office of the State Archaeologist Technical Report Series 03-0002, Project 96-7705).

13.  Emerson and Hughes, "De-mything the Cahokia Catlinite Trade," 149-161.

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