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Jordan Paper

Edmonton, The University of Alberta Press, 1989.161pp, paper, $29.95
ISBN 0-88864-202-4. CIP

Reviewed by Anne Kelly.

Volume 17 Number 5
1989 September

Offering Smoke is an academic study of the sacred pipe - separate-stemmed pipes which were, and continue to be, central to the religious rituals and beliefs of Native Americans. The book documents the importance of tobacco as a means of communication with the spiritual world and traces the history of the pipe back over more than four thousand years. It describes in detail the types of bowls used, their decorations, and the symbolism behind them. Most importantly, the book demonstrates clearly that the sacred pipe was pan-Indian-a form of ritual found across North America, from sub-Arctic Canada to the southern United States.

Offering Smoke is well researched and well documented. Sources of ethnographic descriptions and ethno-historical accounts are given within the text. There are detailed drawings and coloured photographs of fifty-one pipes, as well as data (including people, description and ritual use) for one hundred and ninety-six pipes. The research methods used, and the problems that accompanied them, are thoroughly discussed.

Unfortunately, Offering Smoke is extremely difficult to read. It assumes a knowledge of native tribes, religions and research methods that most read­ers do not possess. The narrative jumps back and forth between peoples and times, and occasionally refers to infor­mation that has not yet been discussed. In its attempt to document every detail (especially in the chapters that cover the ritual use of the pipe, and the types and descriptions of the pipes) the text is choppy, slow, and hard to follow. In contrast, the chapters which are more interpretive (such as the ones on Native mythology and the revival of pipe rituals) are easier to read and generally more interesting.

While the photographs are neces­sary to understand the descriptions of various types of pipes, it is somewhat annoying to have to flip back and forth between the pictures and the text. And at least twice there was no photograph to correspond to a number given in the narrative.

Offering Smoke is a comprehensive study - its research and documentation are a credit to its author. For a student of native studies, it will be an invaluable resource. For the layman, a difficult read.

Anne Kelly, Dartmouth, N.S.
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