Important 1850's Eastern Sioux Figurative Pipe and Stem
This magnificent pipe is a War Pipe with a representation of the underwater panther. It is exquisitely carved in great detail from pipestone. In addition to the carving of the figure, the pipe has designs down the prow and on the bottom of the pipe. The stem is beautifully carved with lightning zigzags across the top half of the pipe. Both the pipe and the stem have great color and patina of age and use.
The pipe and stem descended in the the family Erastus Newton Bates (1828-1898) who moved to what is now the Minneapolis area of Minnesota in 1855. He owned a sawmill there and was a member of the Minnesota Constitutional Convention in 1856 to write the constitution for Minnesota and was a Republican and elected as a state senator in 1857. In 1859 he moved to Illinois to practice law and was appointed a Major in the 80th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1862. He was captured and spent 15 months in Libby prison, and after being released, he returned to his regiment and was mustered out in June 1865 with the rank of brevet brigadier general. This pipe and stem are the only Native American pieces owned by the family and the only pieces known to have been owned by the family. The oral history in the family is that Bates was sent by President Lincoln on a mission to the Eastern Sioux in Minnesota and received it from them as a gift at that time. I have done some research on this and could find no information to substantiate that Bates was on such a mission for Lincoln. However, he would have known Lincoln as he practiced law in Illinois beginning in 1859 and was an active Republican. It is highly probable that Bates obtained the pipe during the period he lived in Minnesota in the late 1850’s.
Mike Cowdrey determined that because of the “pervasive lightning motif” on the wooden stem, it might be a clue as to who owned the pipe and stem. His research concluded that the owner was His Many Lightning’s, who was the “Head Warrior” of the Mdewakanton Head Chief through the late 1830’s and into the early 1850’s. In the early 1840’s, David Fairbault Sr was a trader living a few miles from His Many Lightning’s village and it is likely that they had dealt with each other and it was during that time that he probably commissioned David Fairbault to make the pipe for him as he most likely saw the quality of the carving on the pipe with the image of a trader which Fairbault had made for himself. In 1862, His Many Lightning’s opposed the upcoming war and stated in council just before it started that he would not attack the settlers but would fight the soldiers. He then left to notify the Fairbault family and other mixed race families of the imminent danger they were in from some of the Indians because they were mixed race. After the Indians surrendered at the end of the war, His Many Lighnings was among the large number of Indians who had been scheduled to be hung but were pardoned by Lincoln, including young David Fairbault Jr. After the war, he took the last name of his wife’s father, Eastman, and his daughter later married David Fairbault Jr.
Pipe L. 8 7/8": H. 4 1/8"; Stem L. 25 5/8"; W. 1 7/8" - 2 1/8"