Pipes and Tobacco Use Among Southern California Yuman Speaker
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Pipes and Tobacco Use Among Southern California Yuman Speaker


An article was recently published here (Schaefer 2000) describing a cremation feature at the Elmore Site, CA-IMP-6427. This was a relatively small, well preserved habitation site near the southwest corner of present-day Salton Sea. The cremation feature was interpreted by means of early ethnographic accounts of the southern Yuman speakers. However, in classifying a Yuman bow pipe as a ceremonial object, the article underscores a source of some confusion among contemporary Southern California archaeologists. While the published ethnographic record is rather thin, a careful reading leads one to conclude that tobacco was sometimes used in shamanistic curing ritual, however, tobacco was not commonly used in ceremonial contexts and it did not have symbolic or spiritual significance among Yuman speakers. Tobacco was sacred among Shoshonean speakers and was used ceremonially. Archaeological research suggests they did have the bow pipe, but evidently, this type of pipe was not used ceremonially. To consider the bow pipe a ceremonial object is inconsistent with the ethnographic record.

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