Local birds such as yellow-headed blackbirds, turkeys, ducks, flickers, woodpeckers, road runners, and scissortails were the sources of a bonnet's plumage before the introduction of colorful modern dyes. Each part of the preparation of a single feather might have significance. The killing of any enemy was indicated in one tribe by horsehair tips. Among the Crees, it was shown the wearer had wrestled and overcome an enemy by the removal of web from most of the quill. The signature of the bonnet maker is indicated by the major plume in the back of the bonnet which marked the sign of individiual achievement. Distinguished warriors who performed many exploits were so honored by attaching strips of rabbit fur or ermine with pieces of cloth hanging down.
The first quarrel that arose was between the Cherokee and a neighboring tribe. It was a long and bitter quarrel, so bitter that the chiefs of the two tribes decided to meet in council to try and settle their trouble. And so they met, one day, and they smoked the peace pipe in solemn council, but they did not stop quarreling. A puff on the peace pipe and a bitter word was the way it went. Days passed and still the council sat and smoked and quarreled.
Now the Great Spirit was much displeased that the Indians should quarrel while smoking the pipe of peace. And the Great Spirit said, "I shall have to do something to you men that will show you that People should live together in peace, and that when Indians smoke the pipe, it must be done in peace."
The Great Spirit looked down at the old Men sitting in all that smoke. And he saw how gray they looked and how their heads hung down in weariness because it had been many nights since they had slept. And so he turned the old Men who smoked there in the council into small silvery gray flowers, their heads bent over and their petals hoary.
If you should find one in the woods and turn it so that the head is down and the stem up, you will see that it looks like an Indian pipe, and so it is called to this day. But in the woods where they are often seen clustered together, they appear to be little gray People sitting in long council.
Now after the Great Spirit had changed the quarreling Indians into flowers and set them out in the forest, he noticed that the smoke from their pipes still hung heavy in the air above the place where the council had been. So he gathered up the smoke and draped it over the mountains as a reminder. And he left it there until such time as all Men shall learn to live peace together.
A message or prayer may be sent by offering some tobacco or a similar mixture of plants and tree barks during ceremonial times. The blend of plants and tree barks that I use is called Kinnick Kinnick. It contains Mugwort, Mullin, Angelica, Spearmint, Bear Berry, Red Willow, Osha Root, Sage and Tobacco. Hallucinogens are strictly forbidden in the use of the pipe.
My medicine pouch is adorned with fetishes and contains items that bring me power and protection. One of the fetishes on the outside of the bag was by Jonathan Bear the curator of the Mesquakie Museum here in Iowa. It is the image of the south, east, west, and north, sewn on using glass beads, which represents the never ending circle of life. My medicine pouch is a very personal item and its contents are very rarely displayed.