Ojibwe and the Peace-Pipe

by: Maxwell Popp and Jacob Hutchins

I. Background/History

Who are/where the Ojibwe people?

The Ojibwe tribe goes by many names. Chippewa, Ojibway, Ojibwe, and Ojibwa are all correct ways to describe the tribe but they refer to themselves as Anishinabe, in their own language, meaning ‘original person’
The Ojibwe tribe lived in close range to the Great Lakes of the Midwest in the United States. During their existence as a migrating tribe they traveled from East to West along the chain of Great Lakes.
Like many Native American tribes, the Objiwe relied heavily on hunting and gathering for survival. They would use the woods for hunting deer and small mammals and would also gather berries and herbs as well as fish the rivers and lakes.
They hunted and gathered in seasonal cycles building family housing at each seasonal location. These houses were know as a wigwam and could easily be constructed only taking one day to be completed. These wigwams were oval in shape and measured to be about 14 by 20 feet.IMG_1434.JPG
-This is an example of what a wigwam may have looked like.

The Ojibwe truly lived off the land constructing tools, bowls, and clothing from raw resources such as wood and animal hide. One hunting technique they used was to chase deer into a fenced in area and spear them. They would primarily use traps and snares to capture small game. Bows and arrows, spears, fences, and canoes were all essential tools in hunting for the Ojibwe tribe. Each family built multiple canoes to navigate the wetlands of the Great Lakes Ecosystem.

Ojibwe Society

The Ojibwe had a tightly knot societal structure. Their society was broken down into clans. These clans we related to each other through the fathers bloodline of a clan member. Belonging to a clan meant that each member had a strong support system and was so close that they were not allowed to marry within the clan. Each clan identified with a symbol from nature or a totem. The typical totems for Objiwe clans were one of the following: Crane, Loon, Bear, Marten, and Caribou.

II. Methodology

While trying to find out more about the Ojibwe Peace-Pipe we decided to call a museum and ended up talking to a representative from the George W. Brown, Jr. Ojibwe Museum. We asked her if we could talk to anyone in regards to the Ojibwe Peace-Pipe rituals and ceremonies. We were surprised to learn that the Ojibwe people consider the Peace-Pipe as a sacred object and only men can handle and talk about them. In addition we requested a digital picture to be sent and got a negative response due to the fact that Ojibwe people do not want their sacred objects on display in such a manner.However we still managed to take a picture at the local museum.
-Here is a traditional pipe that was on display at the Sheboygan County Historical Museum

III. Fieldwork

Private Collection

Our Group was given the opportunity to view a private collection of Native American artifacts that have been found on a family farm in the area. Although it is hard to say exactly what tribe these artifacts are from, they are a great example of the way the Obijwe used all available recourses to survive off of the land.[1]


-The objects in the right of the picture are smoothing stones and hammer tools used to make arrow heads.


-Here we see another tool to create arrow heads (left) as well as an axe head (right).


-This is a collection of arrow heads all found on the collection owners family farm. These were used to hunt larger animals such as deer and bear. The horizontal object in the middle is an awl, or drill, used to fabricate clothing.


-Here we see spear heads also used to hunt larger animals.


-Group member Jacob Hutchins examines the collection.

*It is interesting to note while viewing this collection an elderly gentleman shared stories about his grandfather who would trade milk and eggs with American Indians near the Onion River.**

IV. Analysis/Conclusions

Significance of Tobacco

Every ceremony conducted by the Ojibwe began with the ritual of smoking tobacco through a peace pipe; this was done as a way to offer tobacco to the spirits. Tobacco was, and still is, a very sacred element of Ojibwe life. Through the smoking of tobacco the Ojibwe believe that it acts as a medium to having relationships with all forms of life on Earth. It helps build relationships with spirits, other humans, and plants and animals.


The peace pipe is also a very important piece in Ojibwe society; it is used for formal occasions. During the selection of tribal leaders the chief would offer the pipe to a selected leader who would then either smoke from the pipe or pass it back to the chief. If the Ojibwe would smoke it-it meant that he had accepted the position he was assigned.
What is commonly referred to as the Peace-Pipe, the more important part of the pipe was the stem and is known a as calumet. This stem, usually vary long, was reserved for special occasions of smoking of the pipe by tribal chiefs.
The Peace Pipe ceremony was a crucial ritual for the Ojibwe. Families typically were spread out during winter months and trade and ceremonies brought the Ojibwe people together. Every trade or family meeting was lead with the smoking of the peace pipe. (Skinner, pp. 327-411)

Fascinating Facts about Indians in Wisconsin

  • Mahn-a-waukee Seepe, sound familiar? It is known that what is now Milwaukee was a Potawatomi village prior to the 17th century. A historical record made by a French missionary details a visitation of the site in 1679 where he met Fox and Mascouten Indians there who used it as a place to meet and trade. (Fay, 1998, p. 5)
  • Fond du Lac gets its name from the Menominee who called it “Wanikamiu” meaning “end of lake” which translates to French as Fond du Lac. (Fay, 1998, p. 11)
  • Parts of the Black Hawk War were fought in Wisconsin, when in 1832, Chief Black Hawk, led 500 Sauk warriors and their families into Illinois to reclaim their land they were badly beaten and retreated into Wisconsin. Nearing starvation and out manned and out gunned by Federal Cavalry many Sauk were killed in Vernon County and any who escaped were slaughtered by an army of Sioux recruited by the U.S. Government. Out of the roughly 1000 Sauk in Chief Black Hawk’s band only 150 survived. (Fay, 1998, p. 13)

Suggested Literature on Ojibwe Tribe

· The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
· Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country By Louise Erdrich

V. Works Cited.

Callahan, K. L. (1998). An Introduction to Ojibway Culture and History. Retrieved May 8th, 2011, from http://www.tc.umn.edu/~call0031/ojibwa.html

Fay, B. (1998). Wisconsin Sesquicentennial Countrdown. Manitowoc WI: Herald Times Reporter.

Skinner, A. (n.d.). The Mascoutens or Prairie Potawatomi Indians, Part III, Mythology and Folklore. Milwaukee Public Museum Bulletin , 6[3]:327-411.

Private Collection

George W. Brown, Jr. Ojibwe Museum

Lewis, L. R. (2009). Native Languages of the Americas. Retrieved May 05, 2011, from http://www.bigorrin.org/chippewa_kids.htm

Henretta, J. A. (2010). America A Consise History. Boston, MA: Bedford/ St. Martin's.Chute, Janet. "Moving on Up: The Rationale for, and Consequences of, the

Escalation Clause in the Robinson Treaties." Native Studies Review 18.1 (2009): 53-65. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 May 2011

Greenberg, Adolph M., and James Morrison. "GROUP IDENTITIES IN THE BOREAL FOREST: THE ORIGIN OF THE NORTHERN OJIBWA." Ethnohistory 29.2 (1982): 75. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 May 2011..

Eid, Leroy V. "THE OJIBWA-IROQUOIS WAR: THE WAR THE FIVE NATIONS DID NOT WIN." Ethnohistory 26.4 (1979): 297. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 May 2011.

Wright, J.V. "THE APPLICATION OF THE DIRECT HISTORICAL APPROACH TO THE IROQUOIS AND THE OJIBWA." Ethnohistory 15.1 (1968): 96. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 May 2011.

Rogers, Edward S., and Mary Black Rogers. "METHOD FOR RECONSTRUCTING PATTERS OF CHANGE: SURNAME ADOPTION BY THE WEAGAMOW OJIBWA, 1870-1950." Ethnohistory 25.4 (1978): 319. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 May 2011.

Hadjiyanni, Tasoulla, and Kristin Helle. "(IM)MATERIALITY AND PRACTICE: CRAFT MAKING AS A MEDIUM FOR RECONSTRUCTING OJIBWE IDENTITY IN DOMESTIC SPACES." Home Cultures 7.1 (2010): 57-84. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 May 2011.

Waisberg, Leo G., and Tim E. Holzkamm. "`A tendency to discourage them from cultivating': Ojibwa agriculture and Indian affairs.." Ethnohistory 40.2 (1993): 175. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 May 2011.

Pember, Mary Annette. "Matters of Culture and Community." Diverse: Issues in Higher Education 26.24 (2010): 14. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 8 May 2011.
  1. ^ For the safety of the collection, the owner has asked that his name be left out of this report.