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[graphic] Pipestone National Monument
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Winnewissa Falls on the Circle Trail, and two historic images--group of American Indians at the quarries, c.1901, and Looking Eagle carving a pipe in 1940
Courtesy of Lorraine Draper, Pipestone County Museum, and Pipestone National Monument

Pipestone National Monument, created by an act of Congress in 1937, is an area of ethnological, archeological and historical significance that preserves the pipestone quarries in a natural prairie setting. For centuries American Indians have come to this site to quarry the red stone called pipestone. Through the years pipes carved from pipestone have been used for many purposes: to show intention for war or peace, to seal agreements and treaties, for trade, and for religious ceremonies. Today, only American Indians may remove the soft red stone from the area.

[photo] American Indian quarrying for pipestone.
Courtesy of Lorraine Draper

The United States government's policy toward American Indians shifted in the 1930s with the introduction of John Collier as Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Appointed by Harold Ikes, Collier brought about reforms in Indian policy promoting cultural preservation and tribal self-government for American Indians. In preserving the sacred pipestone quarry for tribal use only, the U.S. government recognized the importance and heritage of the people who first populated the area.

The soft red stone is found in a vein between layers of the harder red Sioux quartzite. Methods of quarrying have changed little since the process began. Quarrying is a laborious task involving weeks of work with hand tools, including sledgehammers, pry bars, sharp chisels, and metal wedges. The experience of the quarrier is also a major legacy of the monument. Many of the quarry pits have walls of quartzite rubble, which represent the physical efforts of generations of quarriers. Pipestone National Monument preserves the mile-long quarry line for continued use by members of all American Indian tribes.

Attractions at the site include operating quarries, native plants, rock formations, Winnewissa Falls, Leaping Rock, and a marker from the Nicollet Expedition. The visitor's center includes interpretive displays, films and information. A cultural center helps to explain the art of pipemaking and American Indian work.

Pipestone National Monument is administered by the National Park Service and is open to the public daily. Pipestone National Monument is located just north of the city of Pipestone. Follow signs from U.S. Rte. 75, Minn. Rte. 23, or Minn. Rte. 30. Admission is charged. For further information, visit their website or call 507-825-5464.

[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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