The Story of the Sacred Pipe

A Lakota Story We Heard

The ceremonial use of the Sacred Pipe represents a powerful tradition all across Turtle Island, the Americas. Among many the Pipe serves as a mobile altar that symbolizes the strongest beliefs of the People and carries their prayers to the Great Spirit. We hope the Story we heard will shed some light on the origin and use of the Pipe. The Story is at least several hundred years old and still told where the traditions live.

Two warriors are scouting for buffalo. As they reach the top of a high hill, they see a figure coming from the North. They can’t make out what it is at first, but they soon realize it’s a Woman.

One of the warriors has bad thoughts about her and speaks them out loud.

“Throw out those bad thoughts!” says the other warrior, “That Woman walks in a sacred manner.”

As the Woman approaches, the warriors see the beauty of her. She wears a fine white buckskin dress, and her hair hangs long and silky. Knowing the thoughts of the warriors, the Woman says, in a singing voice, “You do not know who I am, but if you want to do as you are thinking, then come for it.”

The Foolish Warrior walks toward her, and as he comes in front of her a white cloud descends over both of them. In a few moments the Woman walks out of the cloud, and the cloud lifts. The Foolish Warrior is but a skeleton covered in worms!

The other Warrior is much afraid, but when the Woman with the singing voice speaks to him, he listens. “Go home and tell the People that I am coming and tell them to build a big tepee for me in the center of the nation,” sings the Woman. The Much Afraid Warrior obeys and tells the People.

The People, knowing when signs must be honored, prepare the big tepee and wait. And She appears, vibrating beauty and singing as she walks into the tepee:

“With visible breath I am walking. I send a voice as I walk. In a sacred manner I am walking. With visible tracks I am walking. In a sacred manner I am walking.”

As She sings a sweet-smelling white cloud emerges from her mouth. When the People see this, there is no doubt, this Sacred Being has something for them.

She gives the Pipe to the Chief with a buffalo calf carved on one side to symbolize the Earth that bears and feeds us. It has a red stone bowl that represents the blood of the People, with a long wood stem that is the road of life that we must all follow. It has buffalo fur on it to honor our relations with the four-legged creatures of the Earth. And it had 12 Eagle Feathers hanging from the stem. These are the sky and the 12 Moons of the year and our relationship to the flying beings.

“Behold!” She says, “With this you shall multiply and be a strong nation.”

Then the Woman who the People named White Buffalo Calf Woman, begins to sing again and leaves the tepee. As the People watch her going, she suddenly turns into a while buffalo galloping away.

That is why the Pipe is Sacred, to this day.


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