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News from Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana

CHARLO — The Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana extends an invitation to mothers to enjoy a complimentary tour of the museum 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, May 11. A special exhibit of photographs honoring women has been set up in the third hall in recognition of Montana’s 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.

“Images from the Past: Women in our World” features pictures of Native American and pioneer women depicting life in early Montana.

A second new exhibit for the 2014 season is a grouping of 65 ceremonial pipes, pipestems, pipebags, and tampers. The collection contains pieces from the Columbia River Basin that are very old, plus items from various Montana tribes dating back to the early 1800s. Two pipes on display are known to come from Chief Plenty-Coups, the last hereditary chief of the Crows, and Chief Bear Paws of the Stoney Nations. One pipestem with wool tassels indicates it has a French voyageurs connection; one pipebag has metal beads telling it is dated earlier than 1860. A pipe made from an acorn would have been used in a sacred ceremony to bless the acorn as a food source of the tribe. Also on display are a few trade pipes with inlaid pewter.

The collection illustrates the variety of stone used to make the pipes, whether catlinite from Minnesota, stone used by the Kootenai from the west shore of Flathead Lake, or the Pend O’reille’s use of stone from Dog Lake by Plains. The pipestems were made from a variety of wood including ash and maple. Ceremonial pipes were crafted by specific members of the tribe and could take over a year to produce. The pipes were made for chiefs and medicine men. As it was bad luck to break the stone of a pipe, the pipe and the pipe stem were dismantled and stored in a pipebag for safekeeping.

The museum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Please call (406) 644-3435 to schedule group tours of 20 or more individuals. 

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