• Artist George Catlin recorded the quarrying activity at the pipestone quarries in 1836

    Pipestone

    National Monument Minnesota

Quarry Permits

Highlights:

  • An approved permit is required to quarry pipestone.
  • Only members of federally-recognized tribes may apply for quarry permits.
  • Applicants are placed on a waiting list and are assigned quarries in the order the applications are received. For annual quarry permits, it may take several years between the time an application is processed and the time a quarry becomes available.
  • Quarrying is labor-intensive and may take days, weeks, months, or years to yield satisfactory results.
  • Quarriers must supply their own tools.
 
Quarry

The rock seen in this quarry pit is quartzite, one of the hardest rocks in the world.  The quartzite must be removed to reach the pipestone layer underneath.

NPS Photo

Applying for a Quarry Permit

"An Act to establish the Pipestone National Monument in the State of Minnesota, approved August 25, 1937, (16 U.S.C. sec. 445c) Sec. 3. The quarrying of the red pipestone in the lands described in section 1 is hereby expressly reserved to Indians of all tribes, under regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of the Interior."

With passage of this law Congress provided direction to the National Park Service to allow for the continued quarrying of pipestone. Legal opinions have since concluded that Congress's intent was that Sec. 3 applied to American Indians enrolled in tribes recognized by the U.S. Government. While this conclusion may exclude some Indians from tribes not yet federally recognized it does include members from over 562 tribal groups. The monument utilizes the Federal Register notice of November 25, 2005 (Vol. 70, No. 226) in determining the status of an applicant.

Since 1946, the 56 pipestone quarries have been managed by issuance of a quarry permit. The permits are only issued to American Indians enrolled in tribes recognized by the US Government. Documentation of proof of enrollment, issued by a tribal enrollment office in the form of: ID cards, affidavits, or certificates, is required before a permit will be issued. This enrollment requirement will also apply to anyone who will be assisting the quarrier in the actual quarrying process.

Upon verification of enrollment the applicant's name is placed on the quarry permit waiting list. With over 75 names currently on the waiting list, applicants may wait 5-6 years before receiving a permit. Once a permit is available the applicant will be contacted, and if still interested a permit will be issued by the Monument Superintendent.

There is no fee or cost for the permits.

It is extremely important that applicants provide current addresses and telephone numbers, and that applicants update their contact information if their address changes to ensure they can be reached when a permit becomes available.

 

Types of Permits

There are currently two types of Quarry Permits:

Annual - This permit grants the applicant quarry rights for one year and is renewable in January of the following year. While this Permit is the one in most demand it is also the one for which applicants must wait up to 6 years to receive. Applicants are assigned the next available quarry. No individual quarry can be pre-selected by an applicant. Due to the demand for quarries by those on the extensive waiting list of eligible applicants, a Permit holder must demonstrate they are actively quarrying every year they hold the Permit. Please note permit condition #4 that requires the permittee to sign in at the Monument visitor center each day they quarry. Signing in provides documentation that a permittee has been quarrying.

Monthly - This permit grants the applicant quarry rights for one month at a quarry pre-selected by the Monument. The applicant may select any month to quarry, with the summer and fall months being the most popular. An applicant receiving a Monthly Permit may not apply for another permit until their current one has expired, at which time their name returns to the end of the monthly permit waiting list. This permit works well for those applicants with: quarrying experience, the right tools, and enough time in one month to dedicate themselves to extensive quarrying. It also works well for an applicant who may not be able to quarry every year as required by the Annual Permit. If the month desired has not already been selected and you are flexible in planning, the chances of receiving this permit the same year of application are excellent.

 

Conditions

A new condition as of 2007 is a prohibition on the selling of raw pipestone within the boundaries of Pipestone National Monument. While this has been an official policy of the Monument for several years, it was not previously included in either of the Permits. Once a quarrier has lifted the pipestone from their quarry it becomes their property. The Monument retains no right in how a quarrier disposes of the pipestone they have quarried once it leaves the Monument. A significant number of tribal groups and individuals protested the sale of raw pipestone at the Monument, and out of consideration for this protest the Monument Superintendent implemented the prohibition. Finished pipestone items may still be offered for sale to the Monument's cooperating association, the Pipestone Indian Shrine Association, located in the Monument visitor center.

All current permits issued to quarry pipestone within Pipestone National Monument contain the following terms and conditions. They are included here for your reference.

1. The Superintendent shall designate the site where the permittee may, during the term of the permit, quarry pipestone. In the absence of the Superintendent, other monument staff will assist with the quarry designation.

2. No fee or other charges shall be made for the issuance of this permit. A copy of this permit will be furnished to the permittee upon request.

3. Upon violation of any permit condition, or any monument laws, rules and regulation this permit may be suspended, revoked, or amended by the Superintendent.

4. The permittee, or quarriers authorized to work in the quarry, are required to sign-in at the Visitor Center information desk prior to each day's work. In the event there has been no sign-in during the preceding year the permit will not be renewed.

5. The quarrying of Pipestone is an inherently dangerous activity, requiring exercise of caution during all phases. Accidents during quarrying involving injury can and do happen. In accepting this quarry permit, permittees assume all risk and responsibility for the personal safety of themselves and all others working with them. All permittees are required to report to the Superintendent any accidents, for first aid assistance, and recording of the incident.

6. Permit activities shall be subject to all laws, rules and regulations governing Pipestone National Monument.

7. Equipment used in the quarrying operation shall include but not be limited to the following hand tools: shovels, picks, wedges, pry-bars, sledge hammers, wheel barrows, and brooms. Any tools powered through electricity or other fuels are prohibited in the quarrying process.

8. When removing pipestone, the permittee shall remove all salvageable pipestone from the quarry prior to expiration of the permit on December 31.

9. When quarrying, if the permittee should encounter artifacts such as arrowheads, stone knives, scrapers, chipped stone tools, mauls, hammer stones, pottery, worked pipestone pieces, or other buried or surface artifacts, please cease quarrying and leave the objects in place. Immediately contact the Superintendent or one of the park rangers. Once the items are documented and recovered by the monument staff, quarrying can resume.

10. In the event that this permit is not renewed by the permittee, or the intent to renew is not indicated to the Superintendent by April 1 2009, the quarry in question will be reassigned. It is the responsibility of the permittee to make known his/her intent to renew. Due to the increasing demand for quarry permits, this procedure will be strictly followed.

11. Only American Indians enrolled in federally recognized tribes may be involved in the quarrying process. Written proof of tribal enrollment or affiliation is required of the permittee and additional quarriers, verification of enrollment will be checked. Copies of tribal identification will be made for monument records.

12. The permittee must complete the form "List of Additional Quarriers" to ensure all people assisting him/her in the quarrying process are included on the permit. The permittee may submit updated copies to the monument as needed. Additional authorized quarriers must also provide their names, addresses, and tribal identifications. If necessary the permittee may get additional copies from the monument or photocopy the enclosed form.

13. Neither this permit nor any interest therein shall be transferred or assigned.

14. During periods of high groundwater, particularly during the spring and early summer the monument may elect to not pump the quarries. Please call the monument for water level conditions and schedule quarrying accordingly. Monument maintenance staff must be notified two days in advance of arrival for pumping of quarries. Due to liability and safety issues permittees are prohibited from using personally owned pumps or accessories for pumping groundwater from the quarries.

15. The sale of raw pipestone is prohibited within the boundaries of Pipestone National Monument.

Did You Know?

The Nicollet Rock

Joseph Nicollet and John C. Frémont, famous 19th century explorers, visited Pipestone National Monument in 1838 and carved their initials into the Sioux Quartzite cliff. The inscription is still visible along the Circle Trail. More...