Beads & Buckskins
s & information
located in the
Little Feather Center,
Pipestone Minnesota.


The Real McCoy!

The soft red stone which comes from the sacred quarries in Pipestone, is scientifically known as Catlinite. It feels smooth to the touch, and is easily carved with a regular pen-knife. Most Catlinite is not pure red all the way through, it normally has small lighter pigments scattered in the dark red, these are known as stars, and the markings can often look like a universe in the making.
raw pipestone1
cut pipestone2
polished stone3
The picture above is of raw pipestone as it comes out of the earth. As you can see it looks nothing like the finished stone.
Once the stone is cut it looks like the above picture, you can see the lighter specks in the stone.
This is what the polished stone looks like, this has beeswax on it to give it a shine.

Take a look at picture 2 above, this is how the stone can look with the lighter spots in it. These markings come from the bleaching of the hematite in the metamorphic clay over the centuries. It is nature at it's finest, the lighter areas can often look like an animal, a bird, or an insect. Sometimes a different type of picture can show such as a shell, a human, a tree. You just need to look into the color to see these shapes.

Pictures in the Stone
In 2001, Chuck carved a Pipe for a Canadian Native American. As he looked for a piece of stone to use, four times this piece insisted that it be used, he turned it down three times as he didn't think it would be big enough, and on the fourth realized that it should be used. As he carved the Pipe the following image came through: Is this a Canada Goose? We thought so.
This shows that the pictures are there for a reason, and they want to come out in the Pipe. Spirit IS in the genuine Catlinite stone. This is shown in the early stage of carving. We took the photo early on in the process because we thought the picture would be carved out. However it wasn't the goose stayed and is happily with it's new owner in Canada.

In 2003 a pipe was crafted for a Native American woman's group, who are commemorating their ancestors of 1862. When the markings in this pipe was shown to me I recognised the shape as one of the photos I had seen from 1862. The Pipe was presented to the group with the original photo (picture is on the left) showing the young pregnant woman who appeared in the stone.

Dakota Womans March



Photograph courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society

You can see by the pictures above the various colors in the stone. The finished color looks completely different to the raw stone shown in pictures 1 and 2. Many people think that the stone comes out red like this. In the old days the polish used was buffalo tallow.

Another phenomena that shows itself is what the crafts-people call a heart-line. It is a hair-thick line that is straight and a different color, (usually black,) to the stone. It looks like a crack but it isn't. If one of these is found in the stone, it is thought to be highly lucky for both the crafts-person and the person who ends up with the item it is in.

The scientific breakdown of Catlinite

Silica------------- 48.20 Mangananous Oxide------------ 0.60
Ferric Oxide
----------- 5.00 Magnesia---------------- 6.00
------------ 28.20 Water----------------- 8.40
Carbonate of Lime ---------------- 2.60 Loss----------------------- 1.00

Analysis by Dr. Charles F. Jackson, Boston chemist. circa 1836

Catlinite is chemically a clay (silicate of alumina) colored brick red with peroxide of iron.

In a museum article it was said that Indians preferred this more pure clay over other red stone found else where, and that the jasper stone had more quartz in it.

The look-alike stone:

The non-native quarries are near the tiny town of Jasper, these are privately owned quarries, where stone that looks like Catlinite is obtained. The man who owned one of the quarries proudly stated a few years ago that he supplied 95% of all pipestone sold. The reason that he could do this is because he got to the stone by using machinery and so could get out hundreds of pounds at a time. The problem is that this stone is not pipestone even though it was advertised as being from the quarries in SW Minnesota. Of course that quarry is in SW Minnesota as well as the sacred quarries, so it made it look like the stone comes from the Native American quarries. Now think about this for a minute, if he was selling 95% of all stone sold back then and we didn't know about it how many people obtained stone that they thought was the sacred stone, only to find out that is wasn't. How many people bought that stone to keep as an heirloom or to keep on an alter? That stone is probably still there now, and the poor person doesn't realize it is not genuine stone from the sacred quarries...... That is fine in a way, but in another way it isn't because it was sold under false pretences as something sacred..... It may interest you to know that the man who was selling all of this stone eventually lost a couple of fingers, so Creator did do something about it. He has since sold his business and the stone is still being sold, mostly on Ebay, so please be careful where you get yours from......

The Jasper stone as it is called (please note that this is not the gemstone called Jasper) feels grittier, it doesn't have that smooth buttery feel that the Catlinite does. If you try to cut it with a knife it cracks away, often it breaks as it is being crafted, or it breaks the craftspersons tools. The color is different too, it has a more purple look to it. The chemical make up of the stone has more quartz in it. This is the reason that it doesn't cut as well as Pipestone. It also has a more metalic taste to it.

The biggest difference is the dust, Catlinite dust has healing qualities, the other stone does not. Pipestone craftspeople have for many years been working with the dust all around them. Never do they use a face mask, and never have they had any lung problems. A couple of women have astma, but they still make craft items and it doesn't cause them to have an attack. When you go to a craftspersons home there is always pink dust around from their work over the years. It does no harm. However, we have seen people using the other stone and they use a mask, because the dust is sharper and can cause lung problems. We have also heard that the dust causes the skin to burn in the sun, but the true stone dust is used by sundancers to protect their skin, a big difference wouldn't you think?

Lately I have been calling the false stone 'Fool's Stone' which is in the same concept of 'Fool's Gold', so much of the gold mined in the late 1800's was Fool's Gold, but the miners thought it was real gold. This stone is the same, many people think it is the real Catlinite, and they try to make Ceremonial items from it. Sometimes if they are lucky the stone can be formed into a Pipe, but we have heard more than once that the ceremonies have gone wrong. I would personally say that is because Spirit is not in the Fool's Stone. It is like a Heyoka stone, causing things to go contrary to how they should.

More and more Natives are coming and telling us about the stone they were gifted or got from a store to make a channupa from only to find it cracked and they couldn't do it. There are many angry people out there right now who want something done about the people selling this stone as Pipestone stone. Native Americans have had enough of this issue.

1. To end this page I wish to reiterate that no-one from the Original Pipestone Dakota Tiospaye is making a lot of money through the stone. What is sold is recompense for their time in quarrying and making the item.

2. The Pipestone quarries are not being desecrated by the quarriers or anyone else.

3. There are no tourists running around tearing down trees or plants or acting disrespectful in the Pipestone Monument area. When people walk into the Sacred area it is as if a peacefulness overcomes them and they walk quietly, with respect. They ask questions when they see a Native American in very quiet tones, and seem to understand that the whole place has a magical (Wakan) quality to it which they cannot explain but know it's there. Recently an email came in from a visitor to Pipestone and I am quoting it here because it says it all.....

'My first impressions was that it (The National Monument) was a very low key place, quiet, warm in the late summer breezes and, as I think about it now it had an ethereal presence. Kind of like walking into a church sanctuary on a Saturday afternoon when no one is there. ' R W-W.

4. Energies do not subside over the years, the power that the ancients felt here is still present, and it always will be here. Primitive energies that make things happen.

To see photos of the actual false quarries and the ancient quarry please go HERE. and HERE.

If you have obtained some red stone from a rock shop or E-Bay please be aware that it is almost certainly NOT from the ancient Pipestone Quarries.

If you paid less than $10 a pound for it then again it has most likely not been hand quarries by a Native American.

Even if you bought the stone from a Native American that is not a valid reason to say that it is genuine Catlinite. We know of one Native man who got his permit then stocked up with the false stone and went back to his home state to sell the stone. He had a permit, he had red stone, but that stone was not true pipestone.

Written with respect by Gloria Hazell originally for the Little Feather Center, Pipestone, MN 1997 - 2005

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