Pipestone National Monument celebrates its 75th anniversary

The 75th anniversary of the Pipestone National Monument was held last weekend, with a celebration at the place where American Indian tribes have long quarried the stone used in sacred pipes.

The Worthington Daily Globe says that before the monument was established in 1937, there was much legal wrangling about allowing quarrying to continue for Indian tribes and let visitors into the area. A visitor center was built in 1958 and expanded in 1973.

The monument site is 282 acres, just north of the city of Pipestone in southwestern Minnesota.

Special permits are still granted to American Indians to use hand tools to remove the soft clay stone.

The story says the pipestone quarries at the monument have been in use for 3,000 years:

Carvers prize this durable yet relatively soft stone, which ranges in color from mottled pink to brick red. Though these grounds are not the only source of pipestone on the North American continent, by all accounts this location came to be the preferred source of pipestone among the Plains tribes because of the quality of the stone. Oral tradition tells us that the site was used by people of all tribes, and that all tribes — even enemies — laid down their arms before quarrying side by side. Archaeological evidence shows many different tribes quarried here. By 1700, the Dakota Sioux were the dominant presence at the pipestone quarries.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/28/2012 - 12:07 pm.

    Back in the day

    my family had a pipestone pit at the quarry that we worked on hot summer weekends. My siblings and I (they, more than I) spent countless hours with a pick axe and other hand tools to dig out a few linear feet of useable pipestone every year that was turned into pipe bowls and other small objects. The pit had to be reserved every year or you would lose it and sure enough, one year the renewal was forgotten and we lost it.

    It was fun to spend time in the visitors center watching and talking to the real artists who knew what they were doing. And every Christmas we would buy finished pipestone pieces and bead work for gifts and to help support the local artisans. I encourage all those who are passing though Pipestone to stop in and buy something from the visitors center gift shop. They really appreciate it.

    Pipestone is also where my mother and her brother attended Indian boarding school back in the 1920s.

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