Wooden_Indian.jpg - 1

He made beautiful stone pipes. Before he made them in the way of our sacred pipes, he made really fascinating dope smoking pipes, from a soft stone that was easily broken. These elegantly carved works of art did often break. I don’t know if this is because stoners are clumsy or if there was a message involved.

But the pipe maker always took it to be a message, a lesson and opportunity to lecture someone, when their pipe broke. Maybe it never occurred to him the lessons of the many broken dope pipes were because of who it was had made them.

He had a mean streak. He wasn’t faithful to the beautiful woman in his life and maybe it never crossed his mind, the reality of why he lost her. Or the reality of why he couldn’t keep many truly steadfast and dependable friends. Or the reality of why ‘the universe’ would deliver him a savage beating out of the blue. Or the reality of any number of bad experiences it seemed to him had ‘invaded’ his life.

He had meanwhile began making the ‘real pipes’ from our special stone. He didn’t learn ceremony from our people, there was no ‘sweat equity’ investment. What I’m saying is, he didn’t put himself through the hardships of real learning from our teachers’ generations of wisdom. But he was making our pipes. And making them without the understanding of how you go about making these pipes from our cultural perspective, without the proper training or knowledge from oral history.

Our medicine people were ‘watching’ this guy from a distance, they know how to do that. One of them showed up one day and said ‘I would like you to make me a pipe.’ And so, this pipe maker made a pipe for this native ghost priest, and with his incredible gift for ‘art’ he made the bowl so a human spirit was carved from the black stone bowl, facing the person who would be smoking it. The medicine man accepted the pipe and kept it for awhile but then returned with it and said ‘you need to remove this person because we don’t want people to be bugged by it.’ Or maybe he filed away the ghost image himself. In any case, this image disappeared. But the exercise had served its purpose.

When pipe maker came to our camp, one where we put together the summer ceremonies, he didn’t understand our rules. Or maybe in this case he simply didn’t care or think much of the idea of sacred ground. He didn’t refrain from his long time habit of promiscuity and had a girl in his tent, where he was screwing her in the middle of the afternoon.

Tipped off the right time had arrived (our old people have ways of knowing these things) or that is to say ‘timed’ by the fortuity of the gods, the ghost priest gathered up several of his fellow medicine men, they took the (truly freaky) ‘clown masks’ used in a Sun Dance sub-ceremony and stealthily approached the pipe makers tent.

The pipe maker was working hard at his exercise when he heard a cough. Looking over at the unexpectedly open tent door he was frozen as was the girl under him … as they beheld these hideous faces silently looking on .. and then one of the faces said, in a voice the pipe maker should have recognized, “Well, slip it back in”

We subsequently didn’t see this pipe maker at the ceremonies, which is a good, and in the same moment, a bad thing. What might have been going on in the medicine men’s mind?

What we know from the awareness the western culture had worked hard put to death, that is what the Christian culture, which had murdered the native cultures, doesn’t know, that is energy transfers. This guy making pipes needed to be overcome before his pipes began circulating his disease among the people. He had to be made to think about his behaviors. To change his ways. To understand there are unforeseen consequences to one’s inattentive actions. To learn to observe intelligently and begin to assume responsibility for his behaviors. To clean up his act, become ‘clean’ enough to mix with people without causing harm. To discover what it means to become a ‘real human being.’

And, as a last and poorest choice, if he’d not seen his mistakes and corrected himself, discover the hardest lessons of all, the disasters that would attend one’s personal life if he were to make pipes for certain persons and discover his energies can be directed squarely back at him.


Life in Indian Country