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Tomahawk pipe with a conventional blade / Native American; possibly Nez Perce


Tomahawk Pipe, conventional blade -- Brass metal blade/pipe; wood stem ornamented with one feather, buckskin thong and red felt strips.

Note with Artifact: “Wrested from Chief Joseph in a hand-to-hand fight with one of the soldiers at Battle of Big Hole. Dr. King acquired from that soldier’s family. Edward W. Payne acquired it in the purchase of the King Museum.”

The iron/steel axe (tomahawk) rapidly replaced stone axes and became one of the most popular trade goods made available to Native Americans by European traders. The tomahawk pipe was typically made from an ash sapling because of the strength of the wood and the ability to easily hollow the inside for smoking. Iron was often used to make the blade and pipe, though some more expensive pipes were made of steel (Taylor 2001, 31-34).

Tomahawks quickly became the weapon of choice, especially during the 16th and 17th centuries. The tomahawk pipe incorporated both the hatchet-like weapon and pipe into one object, symbolizing a unity of war and peace. This combination made traveling with pipe and weapon easier. By about 1700, specialized forms with spikes or pipes appeared. Addition of the pipe bowl allowed the tomahawk to be either a weapon of war or an important item in ceremonial rites. By 1850 or so, the tomahawk pipe was more used in ceremony than in warfare.

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Tomahawk pipe with a conventional blade
Native American; possibly Nez Perce
late 19th century
United States of America
wood, metal, leather, cloth, felt
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
On View

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