The Ceremonial Pipe
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“Remembering my ancestors” is the phrase spoken to John Buxton (who painted “The Ceremonial Pipe & Artist Benjamin West”) by a Seneca friend of the Iroquois nation who made the replica of a calumet, or ceremonial pipe, which is shown in this painting. This contemporary Seneca honored his Native American heritage as he created this masterful quillwork inspired by their original pieces.
In the painting, one of the Iroquois presents a calumet to the curious who are gathered around a flat rock fire pit. One of the men holds common clay, or “tavern,” pipes that were traded with the white men. Meat hangs on the fire. This might be a common public scene on a warm afternoon in eastern Pennsylvania.
In the right background, the eighteenth-century American-born artist Benjamin West observes with his sketch pad. Years later, several of West’s paintings, including Portrait of Colonel Guy Johnson, featured a calumet just like this that he had acquired in his early Pennsylvania days.