Unknown maker, Tlingit
Wood, abalone shell, brass, copper
Collected by George T. Emmons in 1894
American Museum of Natural History E/1013

Tlingit peoples first encountered tobacco pipes (s’eik daakeit) among Russian traders and soon began to produce similar ones for their own cultural practices as well as for sale to sailors. In contrast to trade pipes, ceremonial versions were often decorated with highly prized materials that marked their prestigious chiefly use. This pipe’s abalone shell inlays, which were likely recycled from regalia ornaments, support its ritual provenance as reported by Emmons. Intercultural transactions are evident in the pipe’s motifs. The scrollwork and rosettes, commonly found on Native objects of the period, were derived from Euro-American vessels. Furthermore, a keel-like appendage runs along its bottom, its mouthpiece is angled back like many boat sterns, it features a ship prow’s spiral billet head, and the chimneylike shape of its bowl is reminiscent of a smokestack. This pipe might even represent a specific Hudson’s Bay Company steamship, the SS Beaver, which played a vital role in mid-nineteenth-century commercial trade and thus the expansion of Native wealth.

Tags for Interactive Tag Cloud: Hudson’s Bay Company, indigenization, repurposing, ship imagery