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100-Year-Old Pipemaker's Craft Is Connection to the Creator [Video]

Pipemaker Hilman Tobey, who turned 100 years old in January, discusses his art and the importance of ceremonial pipes in Native culture.
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Hilman Tobey, Northern Paiute, turned 100 years old in January, but he isn't letting age slow him down. He's already retired once, from a carpentry career that stretched back to 1943; in retirement, he took up pipemaking, and became a master craftsman whose pipes, or chanupas, are treasured by medicine men across Turtle Island. Some have even ended up in Europe, he told The Camp News. Today, he lives at the Reno Sparks Indian Colony, in a house he began building in 1953.

For Tobey, making pipes is a way of reconnecting to a culture he was deprived of in his youth by an Indian boarding school meant to promote assimilation.

"The belief is that the smoke that rises from the pipe—your prayers are in that smoke that rises to the Creator," he says.

In this video from the Nevada Arts Council, directed by Gabe Lopez Shaw, Pyramid Lake Paiute, Tobey discusses the art of pipemaking, the pipes' significance in Native culture, and his own personal journey.