American legend of the Lakota Peace Pipe
Long, long ago, two young
and handsome Lakota were chosen by their band to find out where the buffalo
were. While the men were riding in the buffalo country, they saw someone
in the distance walking toward them.
As always they were on the watch for any
enemy. So they hid in some bushes and waited. At last the figure came
up the slope. To their surprise, the figure walking toward them was a
When she came closer, she stopped and looked
at them. They knew that she could see them, even in their hiding place.
On her left arm she carried what looked like a stick in a bundle of sagebrush.
Her face was beautiful.
One of the men said, "She is more beautiful
than anyone I have ever seen. I want her for my wife." But the other
man replied, "How dare you have such a thought? She is wondrously
beautiful and holy--far above ordinary people." Though still at a
distance, the woman heard them talking. She laid down her bundle and spoke
to them. "Come. What is it you wish?" The man who had spoken
first went up to her and laid his hands on her as if to claim her. At
once, from somewhere above, there came a whirlwind. Then there came a
mist, which hid the man and the woman. When the mist cleared, the other
man saw the woman with the bundle again on her arm. But his friend was
a pile of bones at her feet.
The man stood silent in wonder and awe.
Then the beautiful woman spoke to him. "I am on a journey to your
people. Among them is a good man whose name is Bull Walking Upright. I
am coming to see him especially.
"Go on ahead of me and tell your people
that I am on my way. Ask them to move camp and to pitch their tents in
a circle. Ask them to leave an opening in the circle, facing the north.
In the centre of the circle, make a large tepee, also facing the north.
There I will meet Bull Walking Upright and his people." The man saw
to it that all her directions were followed. When she reached the camp,
she removed the sagebrush from the gift she was carrying. The gift was
a small pipe made of red stone. On it was carved the tiny outline of a
The pipe she gave to Bull Walking Upright,
and then she taught him the prayers he should pray to the Strong One Above.
"When you pray to the Strong One Above, you must use this pipe in
the ceremony. When you are hungry, unwrap the pipe and lay it bare in
the air. Then the buffalo will come where the men can easily hunt and
kill them. So the children, the men, and the women will have food and
be happy." The beautiful woman also told him how the people should
behave in order to live peacefully together. She taught them the prayers
they should say when praying to their Mother Earth. She told him how they
should decorate themselves for ceremonies.
"The earth," she said, "is
your mother. So, for special ceremonies, you will decorate yourselves
as your mother does — in black and red, in brown and white. These
are the colours of the buffalo also.
"Above all else, remember that this
is a peace pipe that I have given you. You will smoke it before all ceremonies.
You will smoke it before making treaties. It will bring peaceful thoughts
into your minds. If you will use it when you pray to the Strong One above
and to Mother Earth you will be sure to receive the blessings that you
ask." When the woman had completed her message, she turned and slowly
walked away. All the people watched her in awe. Outside the opening of
the circle, she stopped for an instant and then lay down on the ground.
She rose again in the form of a black buffalo cow. Again she lay down
and then arose in the form of a red buffalo cow. A third time she lay
down, and arose as a brown buffalo cow. The fourth and last time she had
the form of a spotlessly white buffalo cow. Then she walked toward the
north into the distance and finally disappeared over a far-off hill.
Bull Walking Upright kept the peace pipe
carefully wrapped most of the time. Every little while he called all his
people together, untied the bundle, and repeated the lessons he had been
taught by the beautiful woman. And he used it in prayers and other ceremonies
until he was more than one hundred years old.
When he became feeble, he held a great feast.
There he gave the pipe and the lessons to Sunrise, a worthy man. In a
similar way the pipe was passed down from generation to generation. "As
long as the pipe is used," the beautiful woman had said, "Your
people will live and will be happy. As soon as it is forgotten, the people