M2155 | Pipe-tomahawk

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Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Woodlands
Aboriginal: Iroquois
1800-1830, 19th century
Wood, steel
19 x 3 x 48.5 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Pipe-tomahawk (10)
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Keys to History

Neither Aboriginal people nor Europeans used pipe-tomahawks, like this one, before the fur trade period. Introduced by the French and English in the early 18th century, pipe-tomahawks were manufactured specifically for the fur trade and became a popular trade item. Symbolizing both peace and war, pipe-tomahawks were traded and used, especially in ceremonies, well into the 1800s.

The first Europeans to arrive in North America were confident in the superiority of their culture and their religion, and set out to conquer the Aboriginal nations they encountered. The situation, however, proved to be much more complicated than the newcomers had anticipated. They quickly realized that the survival of their colonies depended on Aboriginal nations becoming trading partners and allies. This involved a process of creative accommodation and cultural exchange that brought the European and Aboriginal worlds together in a sort of "middle ground". European diplomats maintained the alliance by adopting Aboriginal protocol - such as gift exchange and smoking the calumet - when negotiating with their Aboriginal counterparts.

  • What

    This is a pipe-tomahawk, meaning that it combines both a symbol of peace, the pipe, and a symbol of war, the tomahawk. Pipe-tomahawks were made by both the French and English and distributed to Aboriginal allies.

  • Where

    We do not know where this object was collected, however pipe-tomahawks were in use across the Eastern Woodlands and Great Lakes regions during the fur trade period.

  • When

    This pipe-tomahawk likely dates to the early 19th century. This type of object was first introduced by French and English traders and administrators in the early 18th century, but became very popular from the last part of the 18th to the first quarter of the 19th century.

  • Who

    Aboriginal groups across the broad Northeast used pipe-tomahawks. This example has no particular features that can assist us in identifying where or from whom it was collected.