A Haida pipe
Lot 2075
A Tlingit pipe
US$ 30,000 - 40,000
£18,000 - 24,000
Auction Details
A Haida pipe A Haida pipe
Lot Details
Property of various owners
A Tlingit pipe
Carved in full relief to depict a frog, the creature shown with a sense of movement - swimming or possibly flying in a shamanic transformative state, a scalloped table overhead topped with a brass gunstock butt plate, the pipe bowl cut from the barrel of a 58-60 caliber trade musket.
length 4 1/4in

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    The Jim Dressler Collection, Indiana

    Tobacco Pipe/Frog Image
    Tlingit, c. 1820-1860
    Wood, brass, steel
    4 1/4" long

    Tobacco pipes among the Tlingit and Haida were used on ceremonial occasions as a means of raising one's prayers to the spirit world. Tobacco obtained from fur traders (a species of nicotiana rustica) was employed for smoking, though both groups cultivated a native tobacco from ancient times. This was probably nicotiana quadrivalvis, and was not smoked but used with yellow cedar bark ash as a form of snuff. This is the same species of tobacco raised by the Crow people of the plains, which they used only for tobacco ties.

    This unusual pipe was carved from the shoulder stock of a trade musket, using the end of the stock and including the thick brass butt plate still attached. A short piece of the musket barrel was inset into the brass plate for the pipe bowl, and the simple stem of the pipe (no longer present) was attached through the screw hole on the top end of the butt plate. The stems for Tlingit and Haida pipes were usually made from small branches with the center pith burned out, and were simply finished. Some more refined pipestems can be found in museums, but the majority seem to have been made with an eye toward easy replacement when they became clogged with smoke tars. Most trade musket stocks were made from walnut, a medium-dense hardwood with excellent carving qualities. It has been said that gun parts were chosen as pipe materials in part because of their association with power over life and death. The use of gun parts therefore brought this added power to the to the intent of the smoker, whose prayers were carried to the ancestor spirits via the rising smoke.

    The frog image on this pipe most likely represents the crest emblem of the pipe's owner. The style of the carving in the frog suggests an origin in the area of Wrangell, Alaska, where a similar approach to frog sculpture can be seen in a number of historical objects. The shamanic connection of frogs and the spirit world may also be expressed in this fine pipe. Frogs, which begin life in the water and mature on land, are acknowledged for their ability to dwell in two worlds and travel between them, much like the life of the traditional shaman. The lobe shapes around the rim of the brass butt plate in this pipe can be seen as clouds, through which this frog flies like a shaman through the spirit world.

    Steven C. Brown
    October, 2010
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