November 22, 2014

Descendant donates Minnesota chief's peace pipe

SLEEPY EYE, Minn. (AP) – A descendant of Chief Sleepy Eye donated a peace pipe that once belonged to her ancestor, ensuring the pipe will always remain in the Minnesota city that adopted the chief's name.

Karyn Douglas Cissell, of Palm Desert, Calif. is the seventh-generation grandchild of Chief Sleepy Eye. As his last descendant, she said she decided the sacred pipe belonged in the town of Sleepy Eye.

“It's been very special and we've been very honored to have the pipe in our family,” she said Saturday. “But the pipe wanted to be here.”

Chief Sleepy Eye, or Ish-Tak-Ha-Ba as he was known in his Dakota band, lived from about 1780 to 1860. He wasn't a hereditary chief but was commissioned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs because of his friendly relationships with traders and settlers.

Known for promoting peace with white settlers, Chief Sleepy Eye signed four treaties in his lifetime and also met with President James Monroe in 1824.

He died and was buried in South Dakota in 1860. His remains were disinterred in 1902 and buried in Sleepy Eye, under a monument that bears his name.

His peace pipe was last seen in 1972, when the town gave it to Cissell's grandfather during its centennial celebration. Eventually it ended up with Cissell, the last of Sleepy Eye's lineage.

She decided the pipe belonged with the town so she contacted the Sleepy Eye Area Historical Society and offered to return it.

“Seeing how Chief Sleepy Eye is so revered here, I know this is where the pipe should be,” Cissell said. “We've been blown away by the (historical society's) enthusiasm and excitement to receive it.”

The pipe is now on display at the Sleepy Eye Depot Museum, near the monument and across the street from a bronze statue of the chief.

“He is always watching over our city,” said Sleepy Eye Mayor Jim Broich.

The pipe, which shows remarkably little wear for an object that's at least 150 years old, is fashioned in two pieces and made from pipestone.

Since no tribal medicine man was available for Saturday's ceremony, the pipe was not assembled and smoked. When a medicine man is available, it will be assembled and replaced in a museum display case.

In ceremonial usage, pipe smoke is believed to carry prayers to the attention of the Creator or other spirits. The smoke is not typically inhaled at most peace-pipe ceremonies.

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Online:

Sleepy Eye Area Historical Society: http://sleepyeyeareahistoricalsociety.art.officelive.com

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