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About the Lakota Sacred Red Stone C'anunpa

About the Lakota Sacred Red Stone C’anunpa

Lakota Spiritual Leader and Head Man, David Swallow, Speaks Out on the Lakota Sacred Pipe 

by David Swallow, Traditional Lakota Spiritual Leader and a Head Man of the Lakota Nation

Edited by Stephanie M. Schwartz,Member, Native American Journalists Association (NAJA)                         

Published at 

June 4, 2009 Porcupine, South Dakota


The c’anunpa is Wakan, very sacred, and it is used only for prayer and good things.  We don’t call this c’anunpa a pipe because in the English language the word, “pipe,” has many different meanings.  Steel pipe, lead pipe, plastic pipe, sewer pipe, water pipe, there are many kinds of pipes.


The English language has often gotten me into trouble.  It is a very dangerous language, like a sponge with too many holes, too many ways to interpret it.  It’s easy to get misunderstood.


But I want to make it clear.  This c’anunpa has this name and this Lakota word, c’anunpa, comes from the Creator.  That’s the only name for this sacred object; that alone, nothing else.


I’m also not talking about the Sacred White Buffalo Calf C’anunpa which was brought to the Lakota people nineteen generations ago.  I’m talking about the red stone c’anunpa which is even older.  It is very ancient, from the days of the sacred spotted eagle, wanbli gleska, and it is the oldest c’anunpa we have here.  It is the blood of our ancestors, the Lakota. 


Whenever you see a red stone c’anunpa, it is a Lakota ceremony.  By Lakota I mean it is only with the Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota [Sioux] Nations.  Other American Indian Nations may have their own traditions with prayer pipes or peace pipes or ceremonial pipes which are made of a different stone.  But the red stone c’anunpa is Lakota.


Today, I must speak about the c’anunpa because now everyone seems to have one.  If people are going to have one, they must understand and follow the laws and commitments which accompany the c’anunpa.  Unfortunately, many people do not know these things and do not follow what the c’anunpa says.


The C’anunpa Way is the Lakota Way.  You carry it for the people, to pray for their health and help, to pray for the healing of the body, mind, and spirit.  It is very wakan, it is very sacred, and it is not for selfish or greedy use.


So, we must know our original instructions for the c’anunpa.  We have to know them and we have to follow them.  There’s a way to carry a c’anunpa and there’s a way not to carry a c’anunpa. 


A little child should not be given a c’anunpa or carry a c’anunpa.  They do not know or understand.  Moreover, they themselves are innocent and sacred. 


Additionally, if a woman is in her time of menstruation, she is going through her own personal purification ceremony and she is in her sacred time.  She should not be near a c’anunpa or other sacred ceremony.  This is because you do not cross ceremonies; you do not perform two ceremonies at the same time.  If you did, they would cancel each other out.


As I said, the c’anunpa itself has its Way.  Its original instructions were given to us in the days of the winged people by a holy woman sent by Creator.  It is the c’anunpa that is going to teach us this Way and it will also bring us back to our own original instructions as humans. 

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I am a 62 year old female Freelance Writer and Editor and Member of the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA). I live in Firestone, Colorado and specialize in Native American and Indigenous Issues, particularly those pertaining to Lakota (more...)
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