A story of the Pipe of Peace – Cherokee
This story was related by a Chickamauga elder. It is a telling. As they say… Nothing is etched in stone…
Way back before recorded history, the Aniyuwiya (Cherokee) lived in their country of lakes and rivers, beautiful valleys and rolling mist-covered mountains. They had lived well there for more winters than could be remembered. They had lived with their neighbors in that land with a minimum of disagreement or strife. As time went on, men of the Aniyuwiya started to become at odds with their neighbors over many things. This prompted fights to break out that even escalated into wars.
The Aniyuwiya had great warriors and were not afraid to go to war. They had known peace throughout their history, but also their share of great and terrible battles. It seemed that anger was coming far easier than peace.
The Aniyuwiya (Cherokee) people lived on and with their land. They lived, hunted and thrived in this wooded mountainous area and enjoyed their closeness to Unetlanahe “the Apportioner” (Creator). Creator was troubled by all this fighting and decided it was time for a change.
Within Cherokee land was a particular Red Cedar tree spoken of in Cherokee legends. It was turned red by the blood of the severed head of a nearly immortal evil sorcerer that had been battled by The Twins: Homeboy and Wild boy, as told in the old stories. It is said that one day an Eagle came and perched atop this great red cedar. It is said that this eagle spoke to a woman of the Cherokee village.
The Eagle told her that Creator was unhappy with the warring going on between the people, and said it was time to stop. The eagle went on to say that he had brought the gift of peace for the people and that she should listen carefully to what he has to say. The Eagle told the woman to look to the roots of the tree. Within the cradle of the roots rested a special Pipe. This pipe was made in two pieces. A smooth twisted stick for a stem and the pipe bowl, which was made from white stone.
The Eagle said to tell the people that Creator wished the people take up the Pipe instead of the instruments of war. He told her of how the pipe will be used to smoke the sacred Tobacco (Tsalu) to pray for peace and to attain peace amongst themselves and with their neighbors. The eagle then said that the men of war must bring their weapons here and bury them under the tree. If the men will take up the Pipe instead of the instruments of war and consider the ways of peace and the consequences of war, their anger will be replaced with calm thinking and then peace will return.
Before leaving the eagle told the woman to tell the people, that as long as they take up the Pipe and the weapons remained buried, he would remain and watch over them, for all time. The Pipe is symbolic of that promise.
It is known that the Cherokee possessed a “white pipe”, however, this particular pipe (bowl) was round (like a flying saucer with a bowl on top) and was made to look somewhat like a turtle and made of a white stone that is referred to as “Cherokee pipe stone”. It also had seven stem holes going around the lower body so that seven men, possibly of the seven clans could all smoke together at one time, perhaps a peace “council” of sorts. The stems are a bit of a mystery as only the bowl can be remembered. I have seen replicas of it before. It was kept in a container or “ark” with all the sacred relics of the Cherokee. Thus, this pipe was also considered sacred. This container was stolen, as it is told, by Delaware. It was never said if it was ever recovered.
It has been said that there is no pipe story in conjunction with the Cherokee. I believe it was lost to many of them. Understand that the pipe of the Cherokees was not “the sacred pipe” as the Lakota‘s speak of, but “the pipe” which is made Sacred through its use with the Sacred “remade” tobacco. The pipe itself was given to be used as a tool for peace and communion with the creator and all of the other relations we share the land with. The Chickamauga’s and some others left before the removal. They took their sacred ways with them, unlike their brothers who walked “the trail” and were forced to give up all they had. Many of their sacred stories, ceremonies, dances, songs, ETC have been lost. Maybe they haven’t ALL been lost after all.