Native American Legends
Origin of the Lakota Peace Pipe
A Lakota Legend
Long, long ago, two young and handsome Lakota were chosen by their
band to find out where the buffalo were. While the men were riding
in the buffalo country, they saw someone in the distance walking
As always they were on the watch for any enemy. So they hid in
some bushes and waited. At last the figure came up the slope. To
their surprise, the figure walking toward them was a woman.
When she came closer, she stopped and looked at them. They knew
that she could see them, even in their hiding place. On her left
arm she carried what looked like a stick in a bundle of sagebrush.
Her face was beautiful.
One of the men said, "She is more beautiful than anyone I
have ever seen. I want her for my wife."
But the other man replied, "How dare you have such a thought?
She is wondrously beautiful and holy--far above ordinary people."
Though still at a distance, the woman heard them talking. She laid
down her bundle and spoke to them. "Come. What is it you wish?"
The man who had spoken first went up to her and laid his hands
on her as if to claim her. At once, from somewhere above, there
came a whirlwind. Then there came a mist, which hid the man and
the woman. When the mist cleared, the other man saw the woman with
the bundle again on her arm. But his friend was a pile of bones
at her feet.
The man stood silent in wonder and awe. Then the beautiful woman
spoke to him. "I am on a journey to your people. Among them
is a good man whose name is Bull Walking Upright. I am coming to
see him especially.
"Go on ahead of me and tell your people that I am on my way.
Ask them to move camp and to pitch their tents in a circle. Ask
them to leave an opening in the circle, facing the north. In the
center of the circle, make a large tipi, also facing the north.
There I will meet Bull Walking Upright and his people."
The man saw to it that all her directions were followed. When she
reached the camp, she removed the sagebrush from the gift she was
carrying. The gift was a small pipe made of red stone. On it was
carved the tiny outline of a buffalo calf.
The pipe she gave to Bull Walking Upright, and then she taught
him the prayers he should pray to the Strong One Above. "When
you pray to the Strong One Above, you must use this pipe in the
ceremony. When you are hungry, unwrap the pipe and lay it bare in
the air. Then the buffalo will come where the men can easily hunt
and kill them. So the children, the men, and the women will have
food and be happy."
The beautiful woman also told him how the people should behave
in order to live peacefully together. She taught them the prayers
they should say when praying to their Mother Earth. She told him
how they should decorate themselves for ceremonies.
"The Earth," she said, "is your mother. So, for
special ceremonies, you will decorate yourselves as your mother
does--in black and red, in brown and white. These are the colors
of the buffalo also.
"Above all else, remember that this is a peace pipe that I
have given you. You will smoke it before all ceremonies. You will
smoke it before making treaties. It will bring peaceful thoughts
into your minds. If you will use it when you pray to the Strong
One above and to Mother Earth you will be sure to receive the blessings
that you ask."
When the woman had completed her message, she turned and slowly
walked away. All the people watched her in awe. Outside the opening
of the circle, she stopped for an instant and then lay down on the
ground. She rose again in the form of a black buffalo cow. Again
she lay down and then arose in the form of a red buffalo cow. A
third time she lay down, and arose as a brown buffalo cow. The fourth
and last time she had the form of a spotlessly white buffalo cow.
Then she walked toward the north into the distance and finally disappeared
over a far-off hill.
Bull Walking Upright kept the peace pipe carefully wrapped most
of the time. Every little while he called all his people together,
untied the bundle, and repeated the lessons he had been taught by
the beautiful woman. And he used it in prayers and other ceremonies
until he was more than one hundred years old.
When he became feeble, he held a great feast. There he gave the
pipe and the lessons to Sunrise, a worthy man. In a similar way
the pipe was passed down from generation to generation. "As
long as the pipe is used," the beautiful woman had said, "Your
people will live and will be happy. As soon as it is forgotten,
the people will perish."
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