||Ho-Chunk tomahawk pipe ax, Late nineteenth century
Gift of Guido Rahr (1956.8357)
Here the paradoxical symbolism of a weapon (war) and the smoking of tobacco (peace) are combined into one object. Battleaxes were converted to ceremonial smoking pipes by drilling out the handle and adding a tobacco bowl. The refashioned object often cemented friendships and sealed treaties. The blade of this pipe ax possesses a pierced bleeding heart, a motif often associated with European trade goods but commonly seen as a decorative element on tomahawk pipe axes as well. The bleeding heart has multiple meanings including longing and sadness, symbolism appropriate for an instrument of war communicating peace and reconciliation.