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Medicine Pipe

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The subject of this painting could be representative of any time from the 1850s to the 1870s. Among the Northern Plains peoples, the owner of a sacred pipe or medicine pipe, held an important position in the tribe. The medicine pipe was sometimes part of a larger medicine bundle as in the thunderpipe of the Blackfeet people. This is not a specific medicine pipe but rather is symbolic of all medicine pipes.

The owner of this pipe wears a hide shirt that is painted blue and the white spots represent hail marks. Similar marks were sometimes painted on horses, too. The warriors believed that, during battle, these marks would call down hailstones to strike the enemy. The eagle feathers attached to the shirt would impart great strength and courage to the shirt’s owner. The tapestry of color in the back allows viewers to create their own background.

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