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Native American Legends

The Sacred Pipe of the T'salagi

A Cherokee Legend

Most all Nations have stories about the 'Sacred Pipe'. What many people refer to it as The Peace Pipe. Which is an incorrect Hollywood thought shown in the old west movies and cartoons. The Sacred Pipe is to the Native Americans as the cross is to christian cultures.

The pipe, in one form or another, has come to most cultures around the world. Every group has used the pipe in one way or another and has stories of how they came to have it. The Lakota tell the story of the White Buffalo woman and how she first brought the pipe to them. Just as the T'salagi have this story.

It is not important how the pipe first arrived. Or who it came to first as all nations see themselves as the first to have this gift from creator. What is important is that the pipe is revered as a sacred item and also important is that it did come from The Creator. What is most important is that pipe was brought to all men of this world, for we all must share this world.

ong ago, but not long after the world was new, a tribe of red skinned people came to live on the lands which are around The Blue Smoke Mountains.

At this time, the animals of the world still talked to men and taught them how to live on and care for the land. These people were called "Ani Yun Wiya" or the One True People. In this tribe lived a brave warrior woman.

She was called 'Arrow Woman'. Arrow Woman was taught to use the bow, the spear and the knife. Even though it was a man's job to hunt and fight, Arrow Woman could shoot straighter with the bow than any man, she could throw the knife so as split a branch no bigger than your thumb and she could throw the spear into eye of a hawk in flight. Because of all this, no man would tell her to be like a woman.

One day while on a hunt, Arrow Woman came upon the tracks of Yona the bear. She saw blood on the ground and knew him to be wounded so she followed his tracks. High into the mountains she followed. Soon she came to a place that she did not know. It was in this place, a place known only to the animals that she finally saw Yona the bear. He had a deep cut in his side and she saw him bowing down in prayer. She saw him bowing toward a large field of tall grass and speaking words that she had not heard before. Suddenly, the grass shimmered and became a lake. Arrow Woman saw Yona dive into the water. After a time he emerged from the water, his side was completely healed. Yona then saw Arrow Woman and walked to her. Yona told her, "this is the sacred lake of the animals. It is called, 'Atagahi' and it's location is known only to the animals. It is where we come for healing and strength. You are the first man creature to see the sacred lake. You must never tell your kind of it's location for it is the home of 'The Great Uktena'. With these words Yona the Bear turned and walked into the woods and disappeared.

Arrow Woman was tired after following Yona all day so she decided to rest a while by this lake. She built a small fire and sat down to eat a meal that she had brought with her. She took a drink of the water from the lake and felt instantly refreshed. She was amazed, she felt strong as Yan'si the Buffalo. She felt as if she run faster than Coga the Raven could fly.

The woods were quiet, Unole the wind was sleeping, Nvda the sun was shining bright but was not hot, the surface of the lake was completely calm, Arrow Woman began to get sleepy.

It was at this time that she saw 'Uktena', she had been told of him when she was a child but no one in her tribe ever claimed to have seen him. High above the water he raised his great serpent's head, the jewel in his forehead glistening. He began to move toward her. Arrow Woman grabbed up her spear and stood up to face the great creature coming to her, standing proud, showing no fear, the way any warrior should. She raised her spear and prepared to strike the huge beast.

Uktena stopped a short distance from her. He smiled, his mouth was larger than a man was tall and full of teeth longer than man's forearm. He spoke to the brave woman on the bank of his lake. To her he said, "Put down your weapons for I mean you no harm. I come only to teach." Arrow Woman laid down her spear and began to relax, somehow knowing Uktena spoke truly.

Uktena told her to sit and to listen. Uktena dipped his head below the surface and came back up a moment later. In his mouth he had a strangely crooked stick and a leather pouch. These things he laid on the ground in front of Arrow Woman. Then the Great Uktena began to teach. He said,"This that I have laid before you is the Sacred Pipe of The Creator." He then told her to pick up the pipe. "The bowl is of the same red clay The Creator used to make your kind. The red clay is Woman kind and is from the Earth. Just as a woman bears the children and brings forth life, the bowl bears the sacred tobacco (tsula) and brings forth smoke. The stem is Man. Rigid and strong the stem is from the plant kingdom and like a man it supports the bowl just as man supports his family."

Uktena then showed Arrow Woman how to join the bowl to the stem saying, " Just as a man and a woman remain separate until joined in marriage so too are the bowl and stem separate. Never to be joined unless the pipe is used." Uktena then showed her how place the sacred tsula into the pipe and with an ember from the fire lit the tsula so it burned slightly. He told her this, "The smoke is the breath of The Creator, When you draw the smoke into your body, you will be cleansed and made whole. When the smoke leaves your mouth, it will rise to The Creator. Your prayers, your dreams, your hopes and desires will be taken to Him in the smoke. Also the truth in your soul will be shown to Him when you smoke the pipe. If you are not true, do not smoke the pipe. If your spirit is bad and you seek to deceive, do not smoke the pipe."

Uktena continued his lesson well into the night teaching Arrow Woman all of the prayers used with the pipe and all of the reasons for using the pipe. He finished just as the moon was beginning her nightly journey across the sky in search of her true love. He told Arrow Woman to wrap the pipe in cloth, keeping the parts separate. With this done He told her that she would never again be able to find this place but to remember all that she had learned. Uktena then returned to depths of the lake. Arrow Woman saw the water shimmer and become again the field of grass. She left, taking with her the pipe and her lessons and a wondrous tale.

Ever since that time, The Ani Yun Wiya have used the sacred pipe and never again has any man seen the sacred lake of Uktena.

The pipe is not a symbol of things that are sacred. The pipe itself is sacred. Not everyone is called upon to be a pipe bearer. The person who carries the pipe and practices the pipe ceremonies and traditions has a great responsibility to his brothers and sisters, his land and country and even to the Earth Mother.

The pipe bearer does not 'own' the pipe he carries. He simply carries the pipe until the time comes for him to pass it to the next bearer. The pipe bearer is given certain powers of sight from the pipe as well as an ability to heal and purify. Should the bearer fall from grace and become a liar, thief, neglected his duties when asked, or become deceitful, the pipe would repossess these gifts and then the possibility of misfortune for the former bearer may exist.

One should be ready to accept the responsibility of the pipe for it may make demands upon you. It will become your teacher and guide. It can also be your worst enemy if used wrongly.

I leave it to you to decide if these words are truly said.

This is the way that I have learned.

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