CALUMET (Norm. Fr. form of chalumet, from Lat. calamus, a reed), the name given by the French in Canada to the “peace-pipe” of the American Indians. This pipe occupied among the tribes a position of peculiar symbolic significance, and was the object of profound veneration. It was smoked on all ceremonial occasions, even on declarations of war, but its special use was at the making of treaties of peace. It was usually about 21 ft. long, and in the west the bowl was made of red pipestone (catlinite), a fine-grained, easily-worked stone of a rich red colour found chiefly in the Côteau des Prairies west of Big Stone Lake, Dakota. The quarries were formerly neutral ground among the warring Indian tribes, many sacred traditions being associated with the locality and its product (Longfellow, Hiawatha, i.). The pipe stem was of reed decorated with eagles’ quills or women’s hair. Native tobacco mixed with willow-bark or sumac leaves was smoked. The pipe was offered as a supreme proof of hospitality to distinguished strangers, and its refusal was regarded as a grievous affront. In the east and south-east, the bowl was of white stone, sometimes pierced with several stem holes so that many persons might smoke at once.
See Joseph D. Macguire (exhaustive report, 640 pages), “Pipes and Smoking Customs of the American Aborigines” in Smithsonian Report (American Bureau of Ethnology) for 1897, vol. i.; and authorities quoted in Handbook of American Indians (Washington, 1907).