M15889 | Pipe

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Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Anishinaabe
1800-1860, 19th century
Wood, lead, paint
10.5 x 6 x 57.5 cm
Gift of the Natural History Society of Montreal
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Pipe (71)
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Keys to History

This pipe has been carved to resemble a ball-headed war club, or may have originally been a club that was hollowed out to create a pipe. The stem bears floral designs and a series of pictographs that resemble a war record. Warriors used such pictographic images to record and commemorate their accomplishments in warfare, carving them on trees, clubs and tomahawks. As this pipe was made during the 19th century, the evocation of a war record may be primarily decorative.

A theatre of fragile alliances, ongoing negotiations and frequent warfare, the complex world of 18th-century politics saw the rise of alliance chiefs, who represented their community or nation to outsiders. They mediated disputes among allies and directed punitive measures against enemies. They did not command, but always required the consent of their councils. These diplomats were distinguished by their generosity, skill in combat, political intelligence and, above all, unrivalled eloquence.

  • What

    This is a pipe in the shape of a ball-headed war club. The shaft incorporates European-inspired floral designs, along with traditional Aboriginal motifs such as zigzag and wavy lines, a simplified war record, and a personal dodem in the form of a catfish. Alternating red and black pigments were used to enhance the visibility of the incisions.

  • Where

    The motifs used on this pipe indicate that it was probably made in the region of the Great Lakes.

  • When

    This pipe likely dates from the early to mid-19th century. Although this is past the time period when ball-headed war clubs were considered an essential weapon of war, they remained important symbolic icons. Therefore, it is not surprising to see one transformed into another highly symbolic object - a pipe.

  • Who

    The Anishinaabe were well-known for employing cosmological motifs on their weapons, pipes and other carved objects. Consequently, this pipe may have been made by an Anishinaabe carver, possibly as a show item.