the pipe teachings


The first part of the pipe is the stone and the stone is that part of creation that’s at the very centre. Everything else rests upon the stone. So we’re taught that the first thing we pick up is the stone. The next thing that goes into the pipe is the stem and the stem is made of wood. We often use sumac which is a really beautiful yellow wood and it’s easy to pull the pith out.

The second part, the stem, being made of wood, tells us that all the plants in the world whether they be great trees or grasses or lichens; whatever that plant material is, it rests on the stone. It’s the second order of being in this world. It’s dependent upon the stone. Without the stone there would be no plants.

The next thing we do is hang our feathers on the pipe. The feathers remind us of the third order of being, all the animal creatures of this world that fly and swim and walk and run. Sometimes it’s fur, sometimes it’s feathers. It’s a reminder, not just a decoration. That’s the third order of being. The third order of putting the pipe together is hanging those feathers, usually laced with animal hides, onto the pipe.

The fourth order of the pipe are the human beings because we’re the most dependent. Without our animal relations, without the creatures of this world, we would not exist. And without the stone none of this would be at all.

So that’s what we’re taught when we put the pipe together. There are many teachings that go with the pipe but I used that one today because it really does tell us a couple of important things. One is that we’re not way up in the order of things in this world. We’re actually, as human beings, the most dependent, and maybe even the youngest of all creatures on this world.
The other thing that it tells us is that we are dependent; that we can depend upon this earth; that we can rest upon all these others to find our place. As a pipe carrier we remember that when we begin to pray. We remember our place in the world and that we have a place here.

I think about that a lot and try to understand why is it that so much of our brothers’ and sisters’ time and so much of ourselves is tied up doing other things, seeing ourselves as the masters of this world, thinking that the rest of the world is dependent on what we do, rather than understanding that we’re dependent on this world.

Bob Lovelace Jan. 26, 2007


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