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“The Materality and Agency of Pipes in American Indian/Euro-American Encounters” Dr. John Norder

December 6, 2017 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Please join us for a lecture by Dr. John Norder (Director, MSU Native American Institute and Associate Professor of Anthropology) to be held in the Museum Conference Room.

In this presentation, I examine the historical use of the pipe among American Indian communities of the eastern Plains, Great Lakes and Central Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys.  While pipe use was ubiquitous across most of eastern North America, the emergence of what many early European travelers referred to as the calumet and the associated calumet ceremony signifies a unique pan-Indian material form and practice, which early European explorers and missionaries were able to access and participate in.  Over time, and with the establishment of the American state, the calumet ceremony became less formally known and practiced as the ceremony of the peace pipe. The process by which this change occurred is examined through the lens of material agency, which takes the perspective that the material objects are not simply created or affected by human agents but participate with humans in a complex of engagements and dialogics that equally affect the materiality of the object and transform human actions. In this case and on the one hand, pipes, even from their initial construction, shaped the direction of their use by human actors and restricted the ways in which their meanings, forms, and applications could be directed. On the other, Native American communities expanded the ceremonial diversity in which pipes were used while Europeans and later Euro-Americans sought to homogenize them for diplomatic utilitarian purposes. The tensions between these actors/agents reveals a much more complex dynamic to Native American/Euro-American engagements that established models of transculturation or hybridization can account for.

After the talk and Q&A regarding the presentation, we will open up the discussion to questions regarding the position of Curator for North American Indigenous Studies and Engagement and its relationship to NAGPRA and the potential revitalizing of the Museum’s relationship with American Indian and First Nations communities.


December 6, 2017
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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MSU Museum

MSU Museum

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(517) 355-2370


MSU Museum
(517) 355-2370