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{graphic} Pipestone: The Rock

George Catlin's (1796-1872) painting titled Sioux Worshiping at the Red Boulders. Catlin's depiction, painted sometime between 1837-1839, was one of many he did depicting American Indians that became popular in Europe and the United States
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
On the Mountains of the Prairie,
On the great Red Pipe-stone Quarry,
Gitche Manito, the mighty,
He the Master of Life, descending,
On the red crags of the quarry
Stood erect, and called the nations,
Called the tribes of men together.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, " The Song of Hiawatha"

Since 1200 A.D., and perhaps as early as 900 A.D., American Indians quarried the beds of red-colored claystone and shale in the general vicinity of what is today the Pipestone National Monument. The claystone (a mass of limestone found in a clay deposit) discovered at this site is soft and easily carved, due to its peculiar composition. Consequently, it is used by the American Indians to make the ceremonial pipes which are an integral part of their religious and civic ceremonies. Because of this specific use, the rock is commonly called "pipestone." The city of Pipestone, located in southwestern Minnesota, would not exist if it were not for this soft red stone called pipestone or catlinite. Although pipestone was utilized for many years by American Indians to create ceremonial pipes, Pipestone, the town, found its wealth in the quarrying of pipestone and Sioux quartzite, another valuable stone in the region. The blocks, which came out of the Sioux quartzite quarry, were used for buildings. Today they are still used in the creation of headstone markers.

Geological History of Sioux Quartzite and Catlinite: Established in 1937, Pipestone National Monument, where much of the Sioux quartzite and catlinite (pipestone) is located, occupies a 282-acre tract of land. Geologically, much of this monument is characterized by a mantle of glacial drift less than 10 feet thick and consists dominantly of oxidized, light-olive-brown, clayey, calcareous till (unstratified glacial drift of clay, sand, and gravel) with scattered pebbles and cobbles of basalt and quartzite. The basalt fragments were transported from an exotic source to their present site by glacial processes, whereas the quartzite fragments were obviously derived from the underlying bedrock. All of the underlying bedrock is of early Proterozoic age, occurring between 1,770-1,600 million years ago. Quartzite is a massive, hard, light-colored rock with a flinty sheet; it is a metamorphosed sandstone. The Sioux quartzite consists predominately of othroquartzite, but fine-grained rocks, including quartz-rich siltsone, clayey siltstone, silty mudstone, and pipestone are also present in small amounts. In general, the quartzitic rocks are highly resistant to erosion and weathering. The quartzite is characteristically pink in color, but beds vary from light pink to deep red. In Pipestone, the stone is a dark red color, while in nearby Jasper, the quarries yield a lighter pink hue of Sioux quartzite.

Geroge Catlin's painting of American Indians at the Pipestone quarry titled Pipestone Quarry on the Coteau des Prairies. Painted 1836-1838
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Beds of catlinite occur in mixed contrast to the quartz-rich rock types. For the most part they lack appreciable quantities of quartz, are typically deep red to pale orange in color, and are generally massive. In general, pipestone is a claystone that consists predominately of very fine grained sericite with lesser amounts of hematite (red iron ore), pyrite (iron sulfide) and possibly rutile, a lustrous, dark-red material, titanium dioxide, commonly found in prismatic crystals and usually containing some iron. Its general lack of quartz makes pipestone soft and easy to carve. Although a number of other localities containing pipestone have been identified in Wisconsin and South Dakota, the quarries at Pipestone National Monument are still the single-most important source of this commodity. G. B. Morley of the Minnesota Geological Survey wrote in a report to the U.S. Department of the Interior, in 1981, titled Evaluation of Catlinite Resources, Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota, that the claystone or catlinite (pipestone) was used by the American Indians to make their ceremonial pipes, and "because of this specific use, the rock is commonly called "pipestone." Both pipestone and Sioux quartzite were important to the American Indians, and later, the American settlers who arrived in the region.

American Indian History and Legends of the Red Earth: The value of pipestone and Sioux quartzite was immense to the first inhabitants of North America. The Sioux were the American Indians dwelling near the Pipestone region when the Europeans first explored the area. The name "Sioux" is a French corruption of the Ojibwa term nadowe-is-iw, meaning "adder" or "enemy." Historically, the Sioux and the Ojibwa peoples came into conflict in northern Minnesota, when the Ojibwa expanded into a region being left vacant by westward migrating Sioux. One of the names the Sioux referred to themselves as was dak-kota ("alliance of friends"), which became anglicized to "Dakota" and "Lakota." "Dakota" refers to the eastern Santee and Yankton Sioux, while "Lakota" refers to the western Teton Sioux. The Sioux originated from the earlier Siouan population, which is thought to have occupied the lower Ohio and middle Mississippi valleys. The ancestral Dakota migrated northward and settled in parts of Wisconsin and most of northern Minnesota by the 16th and 17th centuries. The Yankton Dakota were those who had closest access to the valuable pipestone and Sioux quartzite deposits. These sites are held sacred by American Indians, and their cultural importance was recognized far beyond Dakota territory.

Sioux Indians on Snowshoes Lancing Buffalo George Catlin painted 1846-1848. Since at least 1700 the Yankton Dakota had been in the region of the Pipestone quarries.
Courtesy of theSmithsonian American Art Museum
Numerous legends among the Dakota address the cultural importance of the Pipestone region to American Indians. A Brule Sioux legend, told by Lame Deer to Richard Erados, in Winner, South Dakota, in 1969, was narrated in the book, American Indian Myths and Legends. When the world was freshly made, so the narrative legend goes, Unktehi the water monster fought the people and created a great flood, whose waters engulfed the lands. Perhaps the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka, was angry with his human children, for he allowed Unktehi to win, and the waters rose in wrath over the new earth. Soon everything was under water except the hill next to the location where the sacred red pipestone quarry is today. The people climbed up to save themselves, but it was no use. The rising waters swept over the hill, and falling rocks smashed down upon the people, killing everyone except one girl who was saved by a big eagle, Wanblee Galeshka, who flew her to the only safe spot, the highest stone pinnacle in the Black Hills. From this union descended the nation of the Lakota Oyate, the eagle nation. As for the other people who died, their red blood turned to pipestone, and created the pipestone quarry, which became sacred, as it was formed from the blood of the ancestors. That is why the pipes made from the red rock are sacred.

There were other legends and stories about the origin of the pipe and red stone. In one legend, the ground turned red from the blood of buffalo slaughtered by the Great Spirit, and man himself was formed from the red earth here. In another, all the American Indian tribes of the earth assembled and fought each other, and their blood stained the ground red. By all accounts, the pipes created from the quarries were sacred. Chief Standing Bear wrote the following account of the long stemmed pipe's significance to the Lakota Tribe in Land of the Spotted Eagle, published in 1933 in the book Land of the Spotted Eagle: "All the meanings of moral duty, ethics, religious and spiritual conceptions were symbolized in the pipe. It signified brotherhood, peace, and the perfection of Wakan Tanka, and to the Lakota the pipe stood for that which the Bible, church, state, and flag, all combined, represented to the mind of the white man."

American Indian artisan working the stone
Courtesy of the Pipestone County Historical Society

Historically, there are dozens of pipe types in North America. Some, like the Mic-Mac and disc, are recognized by collectors. These pipes possess a distinctive style that can be recognized with even minor variation. This is especially true of those pipes that have a wide geographic distribution or have been found in fairly large numbers. Stone pipes, long known among the prehistoric peoples of North America, have been found at Mound City, in present-day Ohio. The quarries at Pipestone had been controlled by the Yankton Dakota since 1700. While the quarries were peaceful, neutral ground by tradition, several Dakota tribes seemed to have jostled for position to be closest to them. It was the legends of this region that inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to write in 1855 his famous poem, "The Song of Hiawatha," an account of the creation of the Peace-pipe, as interpreted by an American retelling the Sioux legends. Longfellow's poem mentioned "And in silence all the warriors/ Broke the red stone of the quarry /Smoothed and formed it into Peace-Pipes. . ." Longfellow's poem also drew attention to the region.

Pipestone Commercial Historic District c.1914

Courtesy of the Pipestone County Historical Society
Pipestone: Distinctive Architecture of the Town: Nearly a century passed between the time this region was purchased by the United States and when Pipestone, Minnesota was founded. After the 1803 Lousiana Purchase, American exploration and settlement increased. George Catlin, the noted American artist and writer, visited the area in 1836. In addition to his well-known sketches of the region, Catlin also collected several samples of the pipestone for subsequent geological study. It was later determined that the rock had a unique chemical composition, and because it was believed to occur only where Catlin had found it, the red pipestone was named "catlinite" in his honor. The town of Pipestone itself was established in 1873. With few or no trees growing in the area, the settlers discovered new ways to build temporary shelter until they could build more suitable homes. Many pioneers on the prairie constructed sod homes, made of dense earth. Sod homes offered warmth in the winter months and cooler temperatures during the summer, giving the settlers inexpensive yet functional shelters. In time, however, these pioneers desired permanent dwellings and looked to other natural resources available in the area: Sioux quartzite.

The quarry affected the building environment of the new city of Pipestone, influencing its architecture and business districts. With the encroachment of white settlers on the traditional Dakota territory, a treaty was developed in 1858 to protect the quarry area and to reserve quarry rights for the Yankton Dakota. The treaty stated that "the said Yankton Indians shall be secure in the free and unrestricted use of the red pipestone quarry," but several settlers laid claim to these lands, and even sold them. These squatters were not respected in the new city of Pipestone, and were later removed in October 1887 by Captain J. W. Bean of the Fifth Infantry. However, legal issues involving the reservation and quarry would take years to work out. Eventually, the new settlers began to mine the quarries near Pipestone and nearby Jasper. These quarries provided the building materials for the new city.

Sioux quartzite and pipestone were generally used together in construction, with their contrasting colors accenting each other. Beginning in the 1880s many buildings in Pipestone city were constructed of this hard stone, and its popularity swiftly spread to cities as far away as Chicago. Thousands of carloads were shipped to St. Paul, Minneapolis, Duluth, Sioux City, Cedar Rapids, Kansas City, Omaha and other cities of the West. Government and school buildings were constructed of the material. Pipestone's railroad tracks, which eventually crossed Yankton reservation land, were the economic link to these locations. In Pipestone, many of the buildings built from 1880 to 1900 were constructed from Sioux quartzite that gave the historic district its distinct red color. Bauman Hall, the Pipestone Public Library, the Pipestone County Courthouse and others in the city were quarried from the local quartzite stone. Many of the buildings were built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, synthesizing elements of Gothic and Roman architecture into a unifying vision, which complements the use of stone.

Quartzite was quarried at several locations. The major quarry in Pipestone County was just north of the city of Pipestone. A quarry at Jasper, actually located over the county line in Rock County, provided stone used in both Jasper and Pipestone. This was founded by the five Rae brothers, Alexander, Andrew, William, Robert, and George, who all settled in Jasper. Originally from Scotland, the five brothers opened their quarry in 1888, which was known as the Dell Rapids Granite Company. In the 1880s the railroad and the quarry opened up new opportunities for the townspeople, and this helped the new city grow.

The 100 block of W. Main St. in Pipestone displays the heritage of the local quarries
Courtesy of Lorraine Draper

Right to the Land: The ownership issues involving the Pipestone quarry and the nearby Yankton Dakota reservation, created in 1858, troubled the law courts for years. The title and legal issues surrounding the Yankton reservation were not easily solved; the Yankton Dakota claimed absolute title, while the United States government took the view that the American Indians had a right in the nature of an easement, an interest in land owned by another that entitles its holder to a specific limited use. Finally in 1926 the United States Supreme Court held that the American Indians held free title to the reservation land. The United States government had to make payment to the Yankton Dakota to compensate them for taking their lands. On April 16, 1928, the U.S. Court of Claims awarded the Yanktons $100,000.00 plus interest from March 1, 1891, until paid, for the appropriation of American Indian lands. In 1937, as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal programs, Congress passed an act making the Pipestone Quarries and the surrounding landscape a National Monument, protecting its use. Now, only American Indians are permitted to quarry the soft red stone for ceremonial pipes. In 1993 there were 30 active quarry pits at Pipestone National Monument, of which 16 represented the sole-source of economic livelihood for 50 to 60 American Indians. The area surrounding Pipestone, Minnesota, is rich with the legacy of the pipestone and quartzite quarries. Pipestone's Sioux quartzite quarries were closed by the end of the 1930s. Jasper still has a working quarry, although its stone is no longer used for buildings.

[graphic] Link to essay on Pipestone County History [graphic] Link to essay on Downtown Revitalization[graphic] Link to essay on Pipestone: The Rock

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