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

We find that there are some questions that are repeated over and over at the Center, so we thought that we would publish them on this medium for all to see and get the answers to. We hope that your questions will be answered, and if not, please email us, and we will do our best to help you.

What is Pipestone all about?
For hundreds of years Native Americans came to the quarries, (George Catlin called the place the 'Red Pipe Stone Quarry') where the Pipestone National Monument is today, to dig for the red rock (Catlinite) from which the bowls of their Sacred Pipes are made. They would make long journeys to get to the Sacred land from all over the country, and would stop and pray to the Great Spirit four times on the journey, the last time just outside of Pipestone. They would pray that they would be successful in their quarrying. All weapons would be buried before they reached the area, because it was an unwritten law that no fighting should go on in Pipestone, it was and still is a beautiful place of peace.

What significance does the Pipe have for Native Americans?
The power of the Pipe is derived from the cultural teachings and respect of a Higher Power, which Native Americans learn from a very early age. It is smoked in all religious ceremonies and ritualistic occasions. Treaties were signed over a Pipe, couples were and still are married over one. Making vows or signing a name over a Pipe ensures that the vows or agreement will never be broken, because it has been sanctified by the Creator. The bowl of a Pipe represents the female, the stem the male, when the two are joined the makings of the universe are held in the smoker's hand. Once a Pipe has been smoked it is at that point consecrated or blessed and has to be stored away with the bowl and stem separated. It will then never be joined unless it is about to be prayed with. Usually the Pipe is kept wrapped in a red cloth or a Pipe bag, which is sometimes highly decorated. The Plains style pipe was traditionally used by men. The elbow style was used by women.

What is smoked in a Pipe?
Kinni-kinick, which is various blends of tobacco, sumac leaves, red willow bark and bearberry, etc. is one substance used. Often just tobacco alone is smoked. No, there are no hallucinates used, a true spiritual person does not need drugs to get them to a higher plane.

How is Pipestone (Catlinite) quarried in Pipestone?
True Pipestone is quarried in a sacred, traditional and respectful manner, using only hand tools. Proper ceremony is done prior to, during and after quarrying. Mother Earth is carefully moved to access the quartzite rock. This extremely hard rock is painstakingly removed layer by layer to expose the Pipestone deposit which can be as far down as 12 feet. The ancient Pipestone is then meticulously withdrawn layer by layer. The vein is usually 14 to 16 inches in depth but only half of the stone is usable. The center part is too fractured and often lacks the red color. The top and bottom sections are also layered, with the bottom layer being the prime source.

I've heard a different story about the way the stone is quarried, how can that be?
There is another stone quarried just outside of Pipestone, which is not removed in a sacred manner and does not possess traditional or sacred reverence. Mother Earth is ripped up with a backhoe and front-end loader. The machinery rips up the quartzite and a stone that is similar to Pipestone. That stone is not considered sacred, so having ceremony with a Channupa (Pipe) made from such stone, which has been traumatized while being removed and so is not at peace, would be very wrong.

Why is the Pipestone so expensive to buy, shouldn't it be free?
The Pipestone itself, from the 'Red Stone Quarries' is free. The only cost is for the time and labor of the Native American who sacrificed himself and worked the quarry in a traditional manner, so that Pipestone would be available for anyone who needs it, especially elders and Medicine people. It can take weeks to get some out, all that time the quarrier has to live, we wouldn't expect any other trades-person to work for free so why should the quarriers have to. If a Native American wishes to quarry for the stone themselves they can get a free permit at the National Monument in town, as long as they have tribal identification. The permit will give them access to the same quarry for a year. It is advisable to have a minimum of 2 weeks available to enable them to get to the vein. The correct hand tools are also needed.

Who are the Sioux?
The Nation that we know from John Wayne movies who were called the Sioux prefer today to be called Lakota, Nakota and Dakota. These are the 3 language dialects used by these people. Nowdays we don't say Sioux as the word is a derogatory statement meaning enemy, whereas Dakota (etc.) means friend or ally. The Dakota are in the eastern plains of South Dakota and North Dakota and Minnesota, the Lakota are in the central and western plains, and the Nakota are between the two.

I've heard some Native American people in Pipestone refer to themselves as Sisseton/Wahpeton, what exactly does that mean?
You may hear a Dakota person refer to themselves as Dakota, (Nation. Which could be compared with the U.S.) Santee, (Tribe within Nation, which could be compared to a state within the U.S.) or one or more of the following; Sisseton, Wahpeton, Wahpekute, or Mdewakanton, (the four bands within that Tribe, compares to a town within the state.) So, for instance, a Sisseton person would be a member of the Dakota Nation, (American) also a Santee (Minnesotan, etc.) yet also a Sisseton, (Pipestonian, etc.).

I've heard that the turtle stands for fertility. is this true?
Yes, a Turtle does represent 'fertility' but there is more to the story! When a Native American child was born the Grandmother would make an amulet in the shape of a turtle. She would form it with great care and bead it ornately, inside this amulet would go the child's umbilical cord, in fulfilling this ritual the child would be sure of a long life. That's not all, it would also enable the cord, which gave sustenance to the child from it's biological mother to join the child with the new life giving force, the Mother Earth, which to the Native American people is known as Turtle Island. This amulet would be the start of the child's Medicine bag and would stay with them for the rest of their life. This could be the reason why the Native American people were so close to the Earth and cared for it so well. Turtle also stands for protection. She retreats into her sturdy shell at any sign of danger, and only emerges when it is safe. When we respect her power she will offer us that same shelter.

I've seen colored cloths at Native American gatherings, do they have a meaning?
Yes, the colors have meanings, Native Peoples have different systems of what the colors mean. We use the system known to many Lakota/Dakota people which is as follows:

WHITE = NORTH. A resting point on the wheel of life. Winter. Under the snow new life is forming, when the snow melts a new life begins.

RED = EAST. Childhood on the wheel. Spring. Education, enlightenment. Spring. Sunrise.

YELLOW = SOUTH. Growth, nurturing the stage of life when you care for your young or your crops. Summer, warmth.

BLACK = WEST. Night, elder stage of life. Power from the Thunder-beings which bring the rain. Wisdom.

BLUE = SKY. All that is above us in the Universe and beyond.

GREEN = EARTH. The Mother Earth, the planet which gives everything a place to live and grow. This makes all of us on this planet relations, no matter who or what we are. Native Americans end their prayers with the words 'MITAKUYE OYASIN' which means 'We are all related'. It is a very powerful thought. WE ARE ALL RELATED.

What are the tiny tied colored things that I have seen hanging on trees, and in the rocks at the Monument?
You may see small colored pouches hanging in various places when you are walking around the Pipestone National Monument or at Native American ceremonials. These are material filled with tobacco and are called either tobacco or PRAYER TIES. Each pouch represents a prayer offered by the maker of the ties. Please don't touch them or move them from their resting place, they will have been put there for a spiritual reason.

Compiled by: Chuck Derby & Gloria Hazell

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

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