The Northern Plains medicine pipe is an accurate reproduction of what became known as the “thunder medicine pipe” used by many Northern Plains tribes. The thunder pipe was kept in an enclosed bundle until the unwrapping ceremony, which was performed when the first thunder was heard in the spring. During the ceremony, the medicine pipe reflected healing, good will, prosperity and happiness for all the tribe members.
This particular medicine pipe reflects the power and healing qualities of the grizzly bear. Many of the artistic motifs are of “bear medicine” to emphasize these characteristics.
Many Northern Plains tribes employed the thunder pipe, such as the Blackfeet, Sarsi, Gros Ventre and others. Particular significance was placed on needed aspects of well-being and was reflected in these medicine pipe ceremonies, each carrying variations of the holy man/owner’s vision. Across the different tribes, respectful unity was expected between the people participating in the spring ceremony.
The medicine aspects seen on this pipe include four small bag bundles, indicating peace, power, prosperity and health. The Chinese coins were acquired through trade while the railroads were being built. The pipestone is of catlinite, the origin of which is still from the pipestone shrine quarry in Minnesota, which is managed by the local Sioux tribes in that area.
On the green trade cloth dangle, there are four carved cow horn bear paw effigies, as tracks would be seen in the snow. These effigies indicate the path through life reflected by the purpose of the pipe.
Thunder pipes were regarded as sacred holy medicine and as such were passed to new owners in a lineage based on honor. The owner of a thunder pipe such as this would have also been a member of a “bear society” or clan. A shaman of this caliber also holding the thunder pipe would have had intertribal respect and would have been sought out for spiritual and healing purposes. The owner of the thunder pipe was thus a very unique individual of the tribe. As keepers of this thunder pipe, responsibility goes without saying, and so medicine bundles grew in size and style as family members bestowed gifts of recognition on the owner.
The medicine pipe collection includes 10 pieces, as follows:
1. Pip stick (beaded)
2. Medicine pipe
3. Authority “coup” talking stick (wand)
4. Buffalo rawhide parfleche (tube)
5. Carved catlinite pipe bowl (old style)
6. Pipe bowl carrying pouch and tamper
7. Pipe bag (tobacco pouch)
8. Bear jaw (society) knife with beaded case
9. Pipe bowl sacred wrappings
10. Buffalo rawhide parfleche (flint case)
ORIGIN: Montana, United States
SIZE: Frame size 38” x 48”, Sight size 40" x 51"