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Calumet

[the peace—pipe ]. When the North American Indians make peace or form an alliance, the high contracting parties smoke together to ratify the arrangement.

The peace-pipe is about two and a-half feet long, the bowl is made of highly-polished red marble, and the stem of a reed, which is decorated with eagles' quills, women's hair, and so on.

“The Great Spirit at an ancient period called the Indian nations together, and standing on the precipice of the red pipe-stone rock, broke off a piece which he moulded into the bowl of a pipe, and fitting on it a long reed, filled the pipe with the bark of red willow, and smoked over them, turning to the four winds. He told them the red colour of the pipe represented their flesh, and when they smoked it they must bury their war-clubs and scalping-knives. At the last whiff the Great Spirit disappeared.”

To present the calumet to a stranger is a mark of hospitality and good-will; to refuse the offer is an act of hostile defiance.

Wash the war-paint from your faces,
Wash the war-stains from your fingers,
Bury your war-clubs and your weapons; ...
Smoke the calumet together,
And as brothers live henceforward.

Longfellow: Hiawatha, i.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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