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Long lost story-telling Sioux, Reaching-for-Peace Pipe carrier, comes to light

A remote cabin high in Utah’s Kolob Canyon country above the famous Zion Canyon seems an unlikely place for the “discovery” of an iconic piece of American Indian history. A beaded peace pipe bag has come to light that depicts a soldier holding a rifle with fixed bayonet and a Native American with bow and arrows.  Both men hold their weapons extended away from themselves while reaching out to the other in peace. Since Americans today are divided at many levels, perhaps this artifact carries a message from the history of the West that  is useful as we seek to be at peace with one another and with the world?

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This may be the only example ever created that actually documents an encounter where warring factions, soldiers and Indians, reach out to one another in peace. The opposite side shows two warriors in full dress holding the reins of two horses, one horse carries a saddle, the other a blanket. These seem to be the horses of the warrior and the soldier.

 

Did the woman who made this piece of history actually see the event depicted? Did she depict specific Indians? Notice that each of them is dressed and ornamented differently. There is reason to speculate that it might be the  famous Chief Red Cloud depicted in beads and in the black and white photo below. Note in the photo that two of the chiefs wear white crosses on the chests as does  a chief  as seen above right.

As the plains people began to be aware of European art and the depiction of scenes to document specific events, they copied this example. Before that a Native artisan told stories in shapes rather than scenes.

The setting for the discovery is the kind of place where the cattle rustlers hid out in Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage. This is exactly the place where a saddle bag full of westerns were filmed. Those old-time movies had a backdrop of drop-dead-beautiful ramparts of red sandstone that are punctuated with caves whose walls are still etched with pictographs of the Native Americans who lived here for thousands of years but left little evidence of their passing. The Reaching Out For Peace Pipe Carrier was in fact found not far from the cave for which Cave Valley was named. Its entrance shape leaves no doubt that this “Earth Mother” cave held tremendous significance to the First People. The cave is shown  in this photo.

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Use of this photo donated by David Pettit                         www.davidpettiephotography.com

Perhaps this peaceful exchange of greetings occurred in 1868 two years before Grant took office as President. The famous Treaty of Laramie was a historic gathering of many western tribes. “From this day forward, all war between the parties to this agreement shall forever cease”. The agreement designated the Black Hills and other lands as the Great Sioux Reservation, and gave the Lakota “absolute and undisturbed use and occupation” of those lands which of course had already been their own since out of mind.

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Red Cloud, named for a flashing red meteor on the night of his birth, is seated, second from left in                                                             full headress,, holding a peace pipe

 

The link below takes you to a Smithsonian Magazine article describing  the Laramie Treaty                                                      and the US Government breaking the agreements made there

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ulysses-grant-launched-illegal-war-plains-indians-180960787/

In 1874 however, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer led 1,000 men into the Black Hills (in Lakota, “Paha Sapa”) in present day South Dakota to scout for a President Grant-sanctioned military post. Within a year 1,000 miners swarmed into the area in pursuit of gold. There were a flood of demands to annex the land but it had been formally signed and ceded to the Indians in the well documented and photographed Treaty of Laramie. Grant launched an illegal war and lied to Congress and the American people about his intentions to take it from the Sioux. This is the very foundation upon which the resistance at Standing Rock was, and is based.

It is an unlikely circumstance that this “discovery” was made by a person with a life-long interest in American Indian culture.  By recognizing its significance and bringing it out of its long “retirement” from the dust bin of history, he seeks to present the pipe bag and its beaded story to the public eye. “I am working to make it the property of a museum or collection which will showcase this  beaded message of reaching out for peace wherein people at war were still able to reach out to one another in reconciliation”.

“On first exposing this import artifact to the light of day, I was immediately drawn to consider the woman who made this beautifully beaded peace pipe carrier and the man whose pipe it once held. With tiny beads and great skill, the artisan illustrated distinctly different clothing styles on each of the three Indians, perhaps this will allow curators to determine more exactly who these people were and thus determine when and where this event occurred.

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Front of Peace Pipe Carrier

 

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Reverse side of Peace Pipe Carrier

Few have seen the Peace Pipe Carrier since its creation.  We are hopeful that this story will lead to finding a place where is might be viewed with awe and respect by the public while being protected and preserved.

It is thought that this pipe bag was crafted by a Sioux  woman at the closing  of a long period of history for the mounted American Indian that began when Spanish brought horses to the new world 1493. These images artfully document the end of the plains mounted warrior culture which is as archetypal as any in history when one culture overwhelms another. We will never know if its creator witnessed this precise event depicted or not. Perhaps however historic speculation is insightful here, could it be Makhpiya-luta, Red Cloud himself reaching out for peace? Could it have been his Oglala wife, Walks As She Thinks, who rendered the beaded scene?

The person who found it is working to see that this, and the other objects that were discovered it, are protected in perpetuity and seen by the broadest possible audience to communicate the message of reaching out for peace between those with whom we have difficulties.  Perhaps you will join our effort to find the proper home for this unique piece of America’s history.     michael@alaskawildernesslodge.com