Northern Shoshone and Bannock
Traditional Culture
  Since Time Immemorial
Who's Who
All My Relations
Pipe Ceremony and Peacemaking
Great Circle
Intertribal Relations
"How the Indian Averted Famine"
Naming Ceremonies
Agaidika Perspective on Sacajawea
Horses, Trade, & Travel
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
  Sovereignty & Tribal Government
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Annual Festival Dances
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  Relationship with the U.S.
  Early Contact
Fur Trade
Naturalists in Shoshone Country
Missionaries and Emigrants
Making Treaties
Lemhi In Limbo
Lemhi Reservation and  Loss
Shrinking Reservation
References Cited

Prickly pear cactus

perhaps what Captain Lewis was referring to... "a pretty heavy penalty if they are to march through the plains of their country"
K. Lugthart photo

Shoshone cloudblower pipe
Courtesy ISU Museum of Natural History
Pipe bag
Courtesy Lemhi County Historical Society

Lemhi Pass > Culture > Pipe Ceremony and Peacemaking
Shoshone Smoking-pipe, sketch from Lewis's journal.
August 13, 1805, Codex F, p. 99 (Moulton: 1988; Vol. 5)

Meriwether Lewis observed these customs during his meeting with Northern Shoshone on August 13, 1805:

"...I now had the pipe lit and gave them smoke; they seated themselves in a circle around us and pulled of their mockersons before they would receive or smoke the pipe. this is a custom among them as I afterwards learned indicative of a sacred obligation of sincerity in their profession of friendship given by the act of receiving and smoking the pipe of a stranger. or which is as much to say that they wish they may always go bearfoot if they are not sincere; a pretty heavy penalty if they are to march through the plains of their country..." (Moulton Vol. 5 1988:79).
Shoshone Moccasins
Courtesy Lemhi Country Historical Society.

And later, when seated in the chief's lodge:

"The chief next produced his pipe and native tobacco and began a long cerimony of the pipe when we were requested to take off our mockersons, the Chief having previously taken off his as well as all the warrior present. this we compyed with; the Chief then lit his pipe at the fire kindled in this little magic circle, and standing on the opposite side of the circle uttered a speach of several minutes in length at the conclusion of which he pointed the stem to the four cardinal points of the heavens first begining at the East and ending with the North. he now presented the pipe to me as if desirous that I should smoke, but when I reached my hand to receive it, he pointed the stem first to the heavens then to the center of the magic circle smoked himself with three whifs and held the pipe untill I took as many as I thought proper; he then held it to each of the white persons and then gave it to be consumed by his warriors. this pipe was made of a dense simitransparent green stone very highly polished about 2½ inches long and of an oval figure, the bowl being in the same direction with the stem. a small piece of birned clay is placed in the bottom of the bowl to seperate the tobacco from the end of the stem and is of an irregularly rounded figure not fitting the tube purfectly close in order that the smoke may pass. this is the form of the pipe" (Moulton Vol. 5 1988:80-81).
Chief Tendoy's pipe.
Courtesy Lemhi County Historical Society.

This story is told by Alexander Ross, fur trader with the North West Company, from his journal early in 1825, and illustrates the diplomacy of peacemaking with the Cayuse at the time. Compare with Meriwether Lewis' account of the "ceremony of the pipe" in 1805:

"The chief's lodge was then put in order with a fire in the center when the ceremony of ratifying the peace according to Indian form commenced. The two Cayouse plenipotentiaries were placed in the back of the tent by Pee-eye-em (of the Sherry-dikas Snake, or Shoshone) and I next to them, when eighteen Snake dignitaries next entered and squeezed themselves down on each side of us. Lastly Pee-eye-em sat opposite to us with his back to the door, having Ama-ketsa on his right and another chief on his left, apparently with the intention of keeping out all intruders and preventing anyone from either going out or coming in during the solemn sitting. And this completed the diplomatic circle. After which, a silence endured for some time.

"The great medicine bag was then opened and the decorated pipe of peace taken out of it and filled with the usual formality by Pee-eye-em himself, who immediately after took a handful or two of sand with which he covered a small hole by the fireside, then smoothing it over made two small holes with his finger in the sand large enough to hold a goose egg. This done, he then extracted from the medicine bag a small piece of wood like a sugar tongs, with which he took up a piece of burning horse dung and laid it in the hole of sand to his left, resting at the same time the bowl of his pipe in the hole to the right, holding the stem of the pipe all the time with his left hand. He then took up the same bit of wood or tongs and with it took the burning bit of horse dung out of the hole to the left and laid it up on his pipe, which was no sooner lighted than Pee-eye-em taking up the pipe with both hands drew three whiffs, allowing none of the smoke to escape; that is, he swallowed the whole of it, then taking the pipe from his mouth held it vertically in his hands, blowing each time he smoked the cloud out of his mouth on the stem, and this he did three successive times at each of which he uttered a short prayer, as if invoking a blessing.

"Then holding the pipe horizontally and pointing to the east he drew three whiffs, blowing the smoke on the stem as before, then turning it to the west, next to the south, and lastly to the north he did the same, always observing to repeat the short prayer every time he turned the pipe, lastly, pointing the pipe to the ground he drew three whiffs, blowing the smoke as before on the stem, signifying that the animosities of war might be forever after buried beneath the earth. But in all this ceremony, Pee-eye-em did not once, as is generally customary among Indians, hold the pipe to or blow smoke to either the sun or firmament.

"All this time Pee-eye-em was sitting on his hams, then rising up and turning the pipe stem he presented it to one of the Cayouses, letting him touch it with his mouth but not inhale any smoke; the Cayouse did so. Then withdrawing the pipe for a moment pointed it to him a second time with the same positive injunction, which the Cayouse observed. The caution was no doubt intended to impress him to reflect sincerely on the responsibility of what he was going to do, for smoking with them on such occasions is the same as an oath with us; then putting it to his mouth the third time he said, "You may smoke now," adding after he had drawn a few whiffs, "We are brothers" (Ross 1956:263-265).

Shoshone catlinite pipe.

Courtesy Lemhi County Historical Society
Background: Lemhi Valley photo by Elaine Mason.
Courtesy of Beaverhead County, MT.