Virginia Indian Pipes

These tobacco smoking pipes are fairly typical of those found on coastal Native sites of the Late Woodland and Early Colonial Periods in Virginia. Early 17th-century accounts indicate that among the Virginia Algonquian tribes adult males of high status, such as chiefs, were the primary users of pipes. John Smith’s 1612 map of Virginia features an image of Powhatan holding a pipe.  

Native tobacco played an important role in Virginia Indian communities. Historical accounts describe tobacco being offered as gifts to deities. Indians smoked and exchanged tobacco pipes during rituals to welcome strangers and visitors from outside communities or to cement relationships between members of different communities. Archaeologists can trace such connections through the distributions of stylistically similar pipes. For example, this pipe stem and bowl (above, left and center) have distinctive incised or cut notches. Archaeologists have recovered comparable incised pipes from Jamestown and from Native settlements across Virginia and North Carolina, which suggests there was significant interaction among groups in different areas of the Coast.

Contemporary Virginia Indian communities continue to smoke pipes for important ceremonies, such as the reburial of their ancestors, the blessing of sacred sites, and community gatherings.