XIV. The Sacred Pipe Dance

ALL Crow agree that the Sacred Pipe (ī+″ptse waxpe`) came from the Hidatsa in relatively recent times; and Mr. Curtis sets the date in 1825. In a way it remained an alien medicine in tribal consciousness, and many were afraid to own it for fear of breaking some of the taboos. In 1910 there were probably twenty-six owners in the whole tribe. Nevertheless, the ritual has played its part among the Crow and lingers on, so that in July 1931 I still saw a performance, though an indifferent one held in a circular shade instead of a large lodge.

While adoption is at least implicit in connection with any Crow medicine, it forms the very essence of the Pipe ceremony. Each owner had the right to become a "father" four times, but many prized the privilege so much that they declined to adopt more than three couples. The Pipe-owners, unlike the Tobacco owners, did not consider themselves a society, but they did sometimes meet informally at the invitation of one of their number in order to hold a feast in honor of the Pipe. At such gatherings there was singing but no drumming; the host planted his Pipe in the ground, but the rest were not obliged to open their bundles.

The initiative might be taken by the prospective "father," who without at first revealing his purpose would bring food to the person he wished to adopt. If the gift was accepted, it would have been unlucky to reject the offer. This form of procedure, that is, inducing a man to be adopted, occurs also in the modern history of the Tobacco ceremony, but it probably does not represent a transfer from that source since it has been noted for the Pipe dance of the Upper Missouri tribes, from whom the Crow derived their Pipe bundles. In both instances the situation is somewhat anomalous: the medicine-owner instead of being besieged by an eager suppliant inaugurates the negotiations. I suspect the point is that certain individuals piqued themselves not only on the possession of bundle rights but on the number of their "children," their ceremonial flock.

-269-

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