The pipe is very sacred to First Nations people. In the past, it was used to open negotiations between different nations as a way for good talk to take place. This ceremony was also regarded as the way by which participants would be truthful, respectful and abide by the decisions and agreements that were made during the meeting time. Tobacco that has been blessed through prayer is normally used for the ceremony. The pipe is usually kept in a sacred bundle that is owned by the pipe carrier, and only he (or a helper) is allowed to open the bundle to prepare for the ceremony. After all preparations are accomplished, the ceremony can start. When asked, the pipe carrier can do the ceremony in almost any location. The participants sit in a circle with the pipe carrier. Amongst some First Nations, the men sit in an inner circle and the women sit in an outer circle; in others, all sit in one circle. Women who are in their menstrual period are required to excuse themselves from participating in this ceremony because it is believed that they have great power and could do harm to the ceremony. The helper places the sacred tobacco into the pipe and lights it in front of the pipe carrier. The pipe carrier, who is the host of the ceremony, says prayers to seven cardinal points: the Four Directions; the Above or Spirit World; the Below or Mother Earth; and the Centre or all living things. The pipe is then passed to the participants for them to either touch or smoke it. The passing of the pipe can be repeated several times. The tobacco is then allowed to “die” and the pipe is disassembled to be returned to the bundle until the next ceremony. After this, the pipe carrier may speak a few words of gratitude about life and expectations; each participant is also invited to speak such words; and the ceremony is considered closed.

William Asikinack