Word of the Day : November 27, 2010


noun KAL-yuh-met


: a highly ornamented ceremonial pipe of the American Indians

Did You Know?

The calumet has long been an important component of the ceremonies of Native American groups, but the first inhabitants of the Americas did not give the venerated pipe (also known as the "peace pipe") that name. English speakers borrowed "calumet" from American French, which had carried it from the dialects of France to North America. "Chalumet," the French ancestor of "calumet," traces to the Latin "calamus" and the Greek "kalamos," both of which mean "reed" or "pen." French baron Louis-Armand de Lom d'Arce La Hontan, who explored North America in the 17th century, noted that French speakers had applied "calumet" to the highly ornamented clay pipes of Native Americans by the 1670s; English speakers followed suit before the turn of that century.


The museum's Native American collection includes several calumets.

"Trade encounters were marked by formal welcomes, oratory, gift exchange and feasting, ritually renewing the bonds between peoples. Participants sacralized relationships through smoking a calumet and thus invoking the Great Spirit to spiritually bind them together." -- From an article by Tyler McCreary in Briarpatch, March 1, 2010

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