Central States Archaeological Societies
Central States Archaeological Societies


 Corky Barrack

Central States Archaeological Societies 2000 October Journal
Coldwater, Michigan

    What started out as a casual conversation with an employee in 1996 turned out to be so much more. Toni told me that her now-deceased father-in-law had, many tears ago, found some kind of Indian pipe. In response, I had commented that I would like to see it sometime. A few days later, Toni showed up with the pipe. I was taken by the pipe's beauty and had hopes that one day I would be able to acquire it. Well, that day came in February of this year, when Toni's husband Bill and his mother Joan agreed to part with it. It is my pleasure to now own this piece and share its history with CSAS members.

    The pipe was found by Robert Hawley in the early 1960's on his farm in Gerald Township in Branch County, Michigan. The Hawley farm was near what locals call the "North Chain of Lakes," and just south of the old Sauk Trail, now Highway 12 running between Detroit and Chicago. 


    The pipe was created in the traditional Mic-Mac style and is 3 3/8 inches long and 3 3/4 inches high and was made from black steatite. The vase-like bowl, which is constricted at the top and bottom, surmounts an ornately carved platform that is somewhat reminiscent of the bow of a canoe. The pipe has an ornately scalloped "keel," with suspension-holes centered on five scallops along the keel's bottom edge. The top of the bowl is inlaid with pewter, and additional pewter inlays in the shape of an arrow adorn each side of the stem. The piece exhibits a lustrous, well-polished finish.

    The Mi'Kmaq (Mic Mac) Indians inhabited a region stretching from the northern coast of Maine to Nova Scotia and Prince Albert Island. During a period of roughly 100 years (1700-1820) the northeastern colonial provinces (New England and the Canadian Maritimes) experienced a titanic struggle, waged by the colonial powers of France and England, for dominance over the fur trade and land acquisition. The Indian nations were engaged in this struggle for protection of their own interests: land holdings defined by treaty, and control over their part of the fur trade. The Algonkians and Iroquois, as allies of either France or England, waged battle against each other and against every outlying colonial settlement in the region as well. By the end of the second decade of the 19th century, the Indian peoples of the region were largely displaced. The Mic-Mac people moved westward and joined other Algonkian-language speaking tribes of the Great Lakes Region. George A West, author of "The Aboriginal Pipes of Wisconsin," sketched at least 66 Mic-Mac pipes, all found in Wisconsin.


    Specimens of Mic-Mac style pipes have been found as far south as Georgia and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains. The style exemplified by the Hawley Mic-Mac pipe is a form that probably evolved shortly before the Contact Period and probably dates to the early 1700s. The Hawley pipe, with its pewter-inlaid adornments, demonstrates the influence of trade with the colonial powers, as well as bartering with Europeans for trade goods. It represents one of several forms made during this period. A variety of materials were used to create these pipes, including steatite, limestone, chlorite, sandstone, slate, and rarely catlinite. Early Mic-Mac pipes often exhibited a cylindrical base surmounted by a round or inverted acorn-shaped bowl. Some bowls were ornamented with ridging and terracing. One unusual specimen seemed to have been designed with provision for the handle to be lashed to the base. Later-period pipe makers experimented with wedge- or block-shaped bases or platforms with additional ornamentations and perforations and/or incised lines on both the bowl and base. 

    Keeled versions of the now-standard terraced-platform bowl pipe began to emerge a short time later. The additional perforations of the keel became commonplace. These perforations to the keel are assumed to be for a cord or lanyard to tie off the pipe's wooden stem. Late period manufactured pipes used pewter and lead with many stylized symbols as well as purely ornamental patterns and designs worked into the bowls and stems. Indian peoples and traders carried both the trade goods and techniques. Many fine Western pipes are known to exhibit pewter and/or lead inlays as a result of these metals' popularity with the Indian peoples.

    The Hawley Mic-Mac pipe is a particularly attractive and well-balanced piece. Great care was taken to create its inlays; each side is a mirror image of the other. The workmanship is of exceptional quality, and the stone was well polished and contoured. The keel is evenly scalloped with multiple perforations. Displaying an understated elegance, this pipe's harmonious balance between ornamentation and simplicity is a credit to its maker's abilities. It is an artifact of timeless beauty. 


West, George A.
1905, The Aboriginal Pipes of Wisconsin. The 
Wisconsin Archaeologist, Vol., 4, Nos. 3 and 4
Sweet, Dan
2000, Personal Communication 

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