Since Early America, it has been a tremendous honor to be the temporary holder of the Eagle Talon or Claw pipe. It is a sacred peace pipe, a spiritual artifact, a religious altar, and is always treated with respect and honor.
The bowl of the pipe most often signifies Mother Earth, being held in place by the mighty eagle, a symbol of strength. Most often, this part of the pipe was pipestone quarried in Minnesota. Pieces of the stone were widely traded so finding one in what is now Montana, Idaho or Oregon would not be a real surprise.
The stem of the pipe could be hand-crafted from cedar, cherry or pine, and was usually decorated with other symbols of spiritual significance, such as prized blue or indigo trade beads, turkey feathers, eagle feathers and rabbit tufts holding horse hair strands, such as this one. It was wrapped with dogbane or hemp rope
The traditional use was always one of a sacred honor. A small amount of tobacco was sprinkled on the ground to bless Mother Earth. The pipe was lit, but never inhaled. The smoke was released from the mouth in the four directions honoring Father Sky, Mother Earth, The Great Spirit and Family. The pipe was passed around the circle of people, east to south, west to north. Each person may offer a prayer or saying if they wish.
Upon completion, the pipe would be capped with sage or bark and separated from the stem. The stem and the pipe were often stored in separate compartments in a pipe bag so as not to touch each other until the next sacred smoke.