Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii.
Calumets and other Native American ceremonial pipes have often been given the misnomer, “peace pipe”; this is a European construct based on only one type of pipe and one way it was used. Various types of ceremonial pipes have been used by multiple Native American cultures, with the style of pipe, materials smoked, and ceremonies being unique to the distinct religions of those Nations.
In ceremonial usage, the smoke is believed to carry prayers to the attention of the Creator or other powerful spirits. Lakota tradition has it that White Buffalo Calf Woman, brought the Chanunpa to the people, and instructed them in its symbolism and ceremonies.
According to oral traditions, and amply illustrated by pre-contact pipes in museums and tribal and private holdings, some ceremonial pipes are adorned with feathers, fur, human or animal hair, beadwork, quills, carvings or other items having significance for the owner. Other pipes are very simple. Many are not kept by an individual, but are instead held collectively by a medicine society or similar ceremonial organization.
Before the development of lighter cigarette tobacco, the smoke was too harsh to be inhaled traditionally by Native Americans in ceremonial use. Today in most peace pipe ceremonies the smoke is not inhaled.
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