Skip Sandman is one of our spiritual leaders and he spoke for the pipe.
No one was allowed to touch it or to take pictures of it, but he told us how the pipe was made straight for the first half. This indicated times of stability for Ojibwe people. The second half of the pipe was cut in a spiral and this part of it represented turmoil and uncertainty. Red and black at times are the colors of death. Those colors were on that section of the pipe to signify the possibility they would die in the process of bringing the pipe to Washington, but they were prepared to do so to benefit their people.
The story of the pipe and the path and struggles it took to get to this ceremony reached deep inside me. Toward the end of the ceremony we all walked past the pipe so we could look at it. Normally I wear my glasses, but was told at another ceremony that when we smoke a ceremonial pipe or view the deceased at a funeral, we cannot be looking through glasses as the spiritual part of this will be blocked. I didn’t want anything between me and this pipe and what it represents.
In the Spirit of Medicine features the essays of Dr. Arne Vainio, an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and a family practice doctor on the Fond Du Lac reservation in Cloquet. His essays on life, work, medicine, and spirit are published in News from Indian Country and you can find the link to this story here.