Mandan Treaty Pipe Bowl

   This treaty or calumet pipe from the Mandan tribe was collected by Prince Maximilian of Wied in 1832.  Prince Wied was a German ethnologist and naturalist who came to the Great Plains with Swiss painter Karl Bodmer to illustrate his book.  In 1840 he wrote Reise in das Innere Nord-Amerikas with hand-colored engravings depicting Native American life.  This pipe was selected for its uniqueness to be exhibited in the Linden Museum in Stuttgart.

   Prince Wied traveled to record and purchase the finest and most interesting items for his castle and a state museum.  The pipe bowl that he obtained was made in the 1600s of limestone, rather than red Catlinite pipestone from a quarry in eastern Minnesota or  black soapstone found near the Great Lakes.  The bowl is large to show its importance as a treaty pipe representing the Mandan Nation.  It was thick so, when smoked by a delegation, the heat would not cause it to crack. There are numerous grooves carved into  the bowl and the rim is decorated with dots, all crafted with primitive tools.   On the crest is a drilled hole for tying to the stem but a fetish was tied to guarantee safe passage when the bowl was carried through land of other tribes.  The long stem was not carried, being extremely long, lest it become broken.  When another tribe was encountered, this bowl represented the Mandans and the visited tribe supplied their stem, to smoke together in fellowship.


   There was an elaborate quilled stem which the Mandans used with this bowl.  Pictured to the left is one such as owned by the tribe.  It depicts figures of men with top-knots of hair, known as Wiwila, believed to live in waters.  The Mandans lived along the bluffs of the Missouri River and these 18-inch people were believed to have great power to aid the tribe.  The pipe itself was believed to have been a gift of the Thunder Beings, called Wakinyan.

   The Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery smoked pipes with tribes as they traveled up the Missouri River.  In 1804 a treaty pipe was smoked when the Corps met with the Mandans and spent the winter nearby.  There was great interest after the trip of Lewis and Clark by German anthropology groups who wished to gather items for their private museums.  As royalty, Prince Wied had funds and time to gather significant items for his homeland.  When his delegation met with the Mandan tribe this calumet, reportedly smoked by Lewis and Clark three decades earlier, was of importance and purchased.   The stem was not sold by the tribe, being needed for a calumet dance before going to war.   Drawings of the Mandan stem allowed an accurate replacement to be made.