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The Peace Pipe and Mi’kmaq Research Paper


Introduction

Religion and spirituality are aspects of human culture that have existed for many years. Native cultures, such as the Mi’kmaq culture have a rich spiritual history from where one can learn interesting elements that transcend traditional and modern religions (Marshall 58). This particular paper explores exciting material culture aspects among the Mi’kmaq natives-the peace pipe.

Here, areas covered include a physical description of the peace pipe, its application and meaning, as well as associated rituals among other aspects (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 1). Without doubt, the peace pipe is an important material culture artifact that reveals many spirituals beliefs about nature, balance, and the general life of the Mi’kmaq people.

Background Information

The cultural history of the Mi’kmaq people dates as back as twenty generations ago (Alfred 6). The Mi’kmaq people are known for their rich cultural history which was faithfully transferred to oncoming generations through oral tradition (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 1). Some of the Mi’kmaq aspects on spirituality compare well with some modern religious practices today (Marshall 58).

For example, the Mi’kmaq believed that there lives a supernatural being that created all things present in our universe today. However, some aspects of their (Mi’kmaq) religion (despite deriving them from common religious practices today) are unique and different from common religious beliefs in our world today (Alfred 20).

Believing that there exists a supernatural being that created all things in the universe, the Mi’kmaq people made a number of efforts to acknowledge, worship and revere the supernatural being (Marshall 58). The Mi’kmaq people believed that paying respect to all the elements of the universe was paying reverence and respect to the supernatural being (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 1).

Such a direction did not prevent the Mi’kmaq people from using their environment and nature to meet their needs. Instead, the Mi’kmaq used several ways to pay respect to their creator while using their environment (Marshall 58).

Anytime the Mi’kmaq people used any part of the environment for their benefit, they conducted special rituals, paid thanks to their creator and showed respect to what they had used (as part of the ways used to respect their creator) (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 2). Importantly, the Mi’kmaq believed that nothing in the universe existed in isolation; rather, everything is intertwined and depends on other parts of nature for sustenance.

Importantly, everything in the universe, including living and non living things, has an associated spirit (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 2). Therefore, the Mi’kmaq people believe that it is important to remain in a state of harmony with the spirits associated with all the elements of the environment for sustenance and peace (Marshall 60). Man can engage in several activities and rituals to attain a state of harmony with his environment (Alfred 20).

Thus, the Mi’kmaq people practiced several material cultures for the purposes of attaining balance and peaceful existence with their environment. Here, one of the important material cultures found among the Mi’kmaq people is the peace pipe (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 3). As it will become clear, the peace pipe is an important artifact that integrates spiritual beliefs found among the Mi’kmaq people (Marshall, 56).

Origin and Description of the Peace Pipe

Also known as the sacred pipe, the peace pipe ranks among the most important spiritual artifacts among the Mi’kmaq people. One can use the peace pipe to thank the spirits and request for any need that he has (Marshall 60). The peace pipe is simply an assembly of two components: the stem and the bowl (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 3).

When its two basic components are connected, the peace pipe can serve as a tool for smoking special types of prepared herbs (Alfred 42). The stone is the main material that is used to mould the bowl. On the other hand, wood is used to construct the stem (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 3).

Interestingly, the Mi’kmaq people do not think that it is necessary to add any decorations to the peace pipe since such a move does not make the peace pipe more powerful. It is also important to note that the Mi’kmaq do not use the peace pipe to smoke common drugs like bhang since such an action is disrespectful to the spirits (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 4).

The Mi’kmaq legend has it that the white buffalo calf woman gave the peace pipe to the Mi’kmaq people about 2000 years ago (Alfred 24). At this time, the Mi’kmaq elders were gathered in a council meeting to discuss the challenges that were facing their community. Here, the Mi’kmaq community was facing starvation due to a prolonged drought and unsuccessful hunting expeditions (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 4).

It is at this time that the white buffalo calf woman came and gave this important tool to the Mi’kmaq people to be used for purposes of obtaining balance with nature and for praying to the spirits (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 4). The white buffalo calf woman gave the Mi’kmaq people all the details required for the design and construction of the peace pipe (Marshall 62). Besides, she also gave the Mi’kmaq council instructions on how they were to use the peace pipe (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 4).

The Mi’kmaq people could now use the peace pipe to pray to the spirits (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 4). When the Mi’kmaq prayed to the calf woman to convert herself into a buffalo, their prayer was answered and they had plenty of meat to eat (Alfred 20). From that time onwards, the Mi’kmaq people use the peace pipe as a sacred object (that they use to pray to the spirits) (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 4).

Types of Peace Pipe Users

One can classify the types of peace pipe users into two different categories: a personal user and a community carrier. Thus, any individual can obtain a personal peace pipe, which he can use to make personal prayers to the spirits. However, the Mi’kmaq culture does not allow individuals to share the peace pipe (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 4).

On the other hand, a special individual can obtain a peace pipe, which he can use for asking the spirits to meet the needs of his community (Alfred 18). Apart from using the peace pipe to ask the spirits to meet the needs of his community, a community peace pipe carrier can use the peace pipe to ask the spirits to assemble for a special gathering or even for healing purposes.

Importantly, the Mi’kmaq people believe that there are only a handful of privileged society members who can carry the peace pipe on behalf of their community (Alfred 16). Therefore, it is not everybody who can carry a peace pipe on behalf of his community. The spirits give this special task to a person before he is born (for him to take the task of carrying the peace pipe on behalf of his community (Marshall 56).

What the Pipe Represents

The peace pipe integrates the beliefs of the Mi’kmaq people about the world, the spirits, nature, and the supernatural powers. The Mi’kmaq people believed that every material found within the universe had an associated spirit (Alfred 20). Besides, nothing in the universe exists in isolation but in a state of balance with the rest of the universe (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 3). The peace pipe consists of two distinct, but connected elements: the pipe and the bowl (Marshall 67).

The bowl is molded from stone (Marshall 62). Since it is made from an inorganic material, the bowl represents the spirits of non living things (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 3). On the other hand, the stem (obtained from trees, which are living things) represents the spirits of living things. Also, the stem represents the male elements of our universe (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 3). Likewise, the bowl represents the female elements of our universe.

Thus, connecting the bowl and stem represents joining the male and female elements of the universe; hence, attaining the states of peace, harmony and balance in the universe (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 3). Every peace pipe must posses the symbolism described above (Alfred 8). However, some peace pipes may have special decorations, as well as additional elements (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 5). Such decorations and elements serve the purposes of reinforcing additional symbols to the peace pipe.

The Peace Pipe Ritual

So as to use the peace pipe to present prayers to spirits correctly, it is important to conduct a peace pipe ceremony in a manner that would place the community in the right perspective with prayers (Marshall 67). Thus, peace pipe ceremony participants must ensure that they make all observations required to bring their minds into a state of communicating with the spirits (Marshall 67).

To put one’s mind into the rights state of prayer to the spirits, one needs to be aware that he is participating in a very important sacred moment during the peace pipe ceremony (Alfred 16). Besides, one needs to follow a special procedure while receiving the peace pipe during the ceremony (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 5). Here, one must use his right hand to receive the stem of the peace pipe and his left hand to receive the bowl of the peace pipe (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 4).

Loaders of the peace pipe must also follow a special procedure to fill the peace pipe. The purpose of these four steps is to show respects to the spirits of the four directions (east, west, north and south) (Alfred 17). For each of the four steps, one should conduct a set of rituals (Marshall 67). First, one should give some amount of tobacco to the spirit of the direction that applies. One should then call the spirit of the direction that applies and ask that spirit to hear his prayers (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 5).

Once one has completed rituals for a given direction, he places a small amount of tobacco in the bowl, points in the next direction, and repeats the procedure above for the spirit of the new direction (Marshall 67). A convenient way of lighting the peace pipe is to use sacred fire. Here, one should use a twig or a small bundle of sweet grass to transfer light from the sacred fire to the peace pipe (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 4).

In addition, it is also important to follow the four-step ritual while smoking the peace pipe. Here, one recognizes the presence of the four spirits (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 2). While focusing his mind on the four spirits, one should release the smoke to rise towards the sky (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 5). At this particular stage, one can guide the smoke to pass over his head. While in the spacing between any two directions, one should rotate the stem of the peace pipe clockwise to show respect to the four directions (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 5).

One finishes the special ritual of the peace pipe when all the tobacco in the bowl is consumed. At this particular stage, it is important for one to alert the spirits that he has finished the ritual. Separating the stem from the bowl alerts the spirits that the ritual is finished. (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 5)

Once the stem and the bowl are separated, the next stage is to empty consumed contents in the bowl (Marshall 67). While emptying the bowl of the peace pipe, it is important for one to dispose the contents in a respectful manner (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 5).

For example, one can empty the consumed contents of the peace pipe in the spiritual fire or even around the roots of sacred trees (Alfred 15). While acknowledging that the spirits responded to all the prayers offered during the peace pipe ritual, one should carefully place the components of the peace pipe under a special wrap (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 5). Here, one should thank the spirits for responding to the requests offered during the peace pipe ceremony.

A participant in a peace pipe ceremony could be offered a peace pipe during the ritual (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 5). Here, one should accept the peace pipe with his right hand touching the stem while his left hand touching the bowl (Alfred 8).

After smoking the pipe, one should turn the stem of the peace pipe in a clockwise direction before offering it (stem first) to the next participant (Marshall 67). In case one does not feel comfortable smoking the peace pipe, he can touch his shoulder with the stem of the pipe before passing it to the next participant (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 6).

Conclusion

Without doubt, Religion and spirituality are aspects of human culture that have existed for many years. Native cultures, such as the Mi’kmaq culture have a rich spiritual history from where modern people can learn interesting elements that transcend traditional and modern religions.

The Mi’kmaq people are known for their rich cultural history which was faithfully transferred to oncoming generations through oral tradition (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 1). The Mi’kmaq people believed that every material found within the universe had an associated spirit (Alfred 20).

Besides, nothing in the universe exists in isolation but in a state of balance with the rest of the universe (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 3). As an assemblage of two components (the stem and the bowl), the peace pipe has a great symbolic significance that represents the spiritual beliefs of the Mi’kmaq people (“Mi’kmaw Spirituality” par. 3). With its symbolic significance, the peace pipe was an important artifact used to offer prayers to the spirits

Works Cited

Alfred, Lowe. Warrior Societies in Contemporary Indigenous Communities. New York: McMillan, 2006. Print

Marshall, Murdena. Lessons of the Life Cycle. New York: Breton University Press, 2004. Print

Mi’kmaw Spirituality 2013. Web. <>

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IvyPanda. (2019, June 18). The Peace Pipe and Mi’kmaq. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-peace-pipe/

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"The Peace Pipe and Mi’kmaq." IvyPanda, 18 June 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/the-peace-pipe/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Peace Pipe and Mi’kmaq." June 18, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-peace-pipe/.


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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Peace Pipe and Mi’kmaq." June 18, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-peace-pipe/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Peace Pipe and Mi’kmaq'. 18 June.

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