Most of the Peoples Nations have stories about the ‘Sacred Pipe’, many of you may think of it as a Peace Pipe. Hollywood has glamorized the pipe through old western movies, yet those stories told an outside culture could not be farther from the truth. The Sacred Pipe is to the Native American People as the cross would be to Christian cultures.
The pipe, in varied forms is often prevalent in most tribal cultures all around the world. All Nations have used the pipe in some form of ritual and have passed the stories of where the pipe came from. One of the more well known Native American lore is the Lakota story of the White Buffalo Woman bringing and sharing the pipe and wisdom’s to them.
There are a lot of stories on just how the pipe first arrived, and who it was brought to first, yet what is most important is that the pipe is revered as a sacred item and was a gift handed to us by The Creator. The Sacred Pipe was brought to all people of this world, for we all must share this world, as one race …the Human race This story is the story I was told and it tells of the importance of the Pipe as means to Prayer, Balance and Heal. The following is a story that was shared with me, and of course it has a bear, “Yona” in it so it has always been remembered with fondness…
At a time when the world was new, a tribe of red skinned people came to live on the lands around The Blue Smoke Mountains. This is a time animals of the world still spoke to all of us teaching us how to live and care for the land. These people were called “Ani Yun Wiya” or the One True People. In this tribe lived a brave warrior woman.
She was called ‘Arrow Woman’. As a young woman she was taught to use the bow, the spear and the knife. Even though it was a man’s job to hunt and fight, Arrow Woman could shoot straighter with the bow than any man. She could throw the knife so as split a branch no bigger than your thumb and she could throw the spear into eye of a hawk in flight. Because of all this, no one would tell her to act like a woman should within the tribe.
One day while on a hunt, Arrow Woman came upon the tracks of “Yona” the bear. She saw blood on the ground and knew him to be wounded, so she followed his tracks high into the mountains. Soon she came to a place that she did not know. It was at this place, a place known only to the animals that she finally saw “Yona” the bear. He had a deep gash in his side. As she watched him, he bowed down in prayer. She saw him bowing toward a large field of tall grass and speaking words that she had not heard before. Suddenly, the grass shimmered and became a lake. Arrow Woman saw “Yona” the bear, dive into the water. After a time he emerged from the water, his side was completely healed.
“Yona” the bear looked up and saw Arrow Woman walking towards her he spoke, “This is the sacred lake of the animals. It is called, ‘Atagahi’ and it’s location is known only to the animals. It is where we come for healing and strength. You are the first human to see the Sacred Lake. You must never tell your kind of it’s location for it is the home of ‘The Great Uktena’. After speaking to her “Yona” the Bear turned and walked into the woods and disappeared.
Arrow Woman sat and contemplated all that had occurred. Yet she was tired from following “Yona” the Bear all day and needed to rest a while. So she built a small fire next to the lake, and sitting down she began to prepare a meal that she had brought with her. She reached over and took a drink of the water from the lake as she did Arrow Woman felt instantly refreshed. Amazed, she felt strong as Yan’si the Buffalo, and as if she could run faster than Coga the Raven could fly. The woods were quiet, the Sacred Winds where sleeping, Father Sun was shining bright, the surface upon the lake was completely calm, Arrow Woman began to get sleepy.
It was at this time that ‘Uktena’ appeared to her. As a child she had been told of him yet no one in her tribe ever claimed to have seen him. High above the water he raised his great serpent’s head, the jewel in his forehead glistening. He began to move toward her. Arrow Woman grabbed up her spear and stood up to face the great creature coming to her, standing proud, showing no fear, the way any warrior should. She raised her spear and prepared to strike the huge beast.
Uktena stopped a short distance from her. He smiled at her, showing his fierce rows of teeth he began speaking to the brave woman on the bank of his lake, “Put down your weapons for I mean you no harm. I come only to teach.” Arrow Woman laid down her spear and began to relax, somehow knowing Uktena spoke truly.
Uktena told her to sit and to listen. He then dipped his head below the surface and came back up a moment later. In his mouth he had a strangely crooked stick and a leather pouch. These things he laid on the ground in front of Arrow Woman. Then the teaching began.
“This that I have laid before you is the Sacred Pipe of The Creator. Pick up the pipe. The bowl is of the same red clay The Creator used to make your kind. The red clay is Woman kind and is from the Earth. Just as a woman bears the children and brings forth life, the bowl bears the sacred tobacco and brings forth smoke. The stem is Man. Rigid and strong the stem is from the plant kingdom and like a man it supports the bowl just as man supports his family.”
He then showed Arrow Woman how to join the bowl to the stem saying, ” Just as a man and a woman remain separate until joined in marriage so too are the bowl and stem separate. Never to be joined unless the pipe is used.” Uktena then showed her how place the sacred tobacco into the pipe and with an ember from the fire lit it so it burned slightly. He then spoke these words, “The smoke is the breath of The Creator, When you draw the smoke into your body, you will be cleansed and made whole. When the smoke leaves your mouth, it will rise to The Creator. Your prayers, your dreams, your hopes and desires will be taken to Him in the smoke. Also the truth in your soul will be shown to Him when you smoke the pipe. If you are not true, do not smoke the pipe. If your spirit is bad and you seek to deceive, do not smoke the pipe.”
Uktena continued his lesson well into the night teaching Arrow Woman all of the prayers used with the pipe and all of the reasons for using the pipe. He finished just as the moon was beginning her nightly journey across the sky in search of her true love. He told Arrow Woman to wrap the pipe in cloth, keeping the parts separate. With this done He told her that she would never again be able to find this place but to remember all that she had learned. Uktena then returned to depths of the lake. Arrow Woman saw the water shimmer and become again the field of grass. She left, taking with her the pipe and her lessons and a wondrous tale. Ever since that time, The Peoples have used the sacred pipe and never again has any man seen the sacred lake of Uktena.
The Sacred Pipe is not a symbol of things that are sacred, but it is the Pipe itself that is sacred. Not everyone is called upon to be a pipe bearer. The person who carries the pipe and practices the pipe ceremonies and traditions has a great responsibility to his brothers and sisters, his land and country and to the Great Earth Mother. They, the pipe bearer, does not ‘own’ the pipe that they carry. They simply carry the pipe until the time comes for them to pass it to the next bearer. The pipe bearer is given certain powers of sight from the pipe as well as an ability to heal and purify. Should the bearer fall from grace and become a liar, thief, neglected their duties when asked, or become deceitful, the pipe will repossess these gifts and then the possibility of misfortune for the former bearer may exist.
One should be ready to accept the responsibility of the pipe for it may make demands upon you. It will become your teacher and guide. It can also be your worst enemy if used wrongly. It is an honor for the person to be chosen as a Pipe Holder…it is to be respected and revered. If you are not called to be a Pipe Carrier, the pipe remains sacred, and for many of us we still use it on ceremony and prayer…Honoring those Sacred Traditions.
“Old Chief’s Pipe” by Steven Rushingwind and available at http://www.steverushingwind.com/
“I am Dedicated to Educating and sharing the Native culture with the World. It is not enough merely to teach the ways of our Elders. We must honor those traditions by sharing and educating the World. Inspiring others …Inspiring our Youth. Through the Music… the Arts…the stories…”
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