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

Quarrying and Tradition

"The quartzite is the world’s second hardest rock. Fortunately, there are numerous cracks and seams in the quartzite." - Chuck Derby

Tradition to us means that which has been handed down through the generations or through a culture. In the case of the Pipestone quarriers, most of us have had the tradition, that is cultural, handed down to us thru our family.

Quarrying for the Sacred red stone, Catlinite, is a dying occupation. It is very hard to find people who are dedicated to the old ways and who will work for basically nothing to keep the Pipe alive. There are very few quarriers today and the majority of those live in Pipestone and carry on the traditions of their family who have been birthing the Catlinite for at least 6 generation, since prior to 1862..

"I would go to my father's quarry where we spent so many hours each fall, the north half of the Spotted Quarry. I often stopped for a while and would toss out some of the smaller rocks that had been thrown into the pit or had slid down from the debris pilings." - Chuck Derby

We respect the tradition and we respect what the Pipe stands for. Sometimes we are told that we are doing wrong by our own people, they say we are disrespectful of the Pipe. We say that we were the ones that kept the Pipe alive during the time ceremony was banned by the government. We continued during that time to quarry and make Pipes and other articles so that when the ban was lifted in 1976, we knew how to quarry and reach the Catlinite for the many Pipes that were needed for prayer, and we knew how to carve the stone. We continue that Tradition today.

The way to reach the stone is hard and can be dangerous. It is thankless work and very tedious. However the rewards are in the knowledge that you are working with something so sacred; the energies of the ancient quarries, and that without you a timeless spiritual tradition would be gone. We all believe that to shed our sweat and blood to reach the Sacred stone and to touch something that has been asleep under the quartzite for many millennium - allowing that sleeping entity to awaken by our hands - is a great honor.

"Quarrying for pipestone is a labor intensive and time consuming task. The proverbial phrase, ‘Sweat, blood and tears’ would be appropriate for this endeavor." - Chuck Derby

We would like young Native people to acquire a better knowledge of this ancient tradition that is so sacred to many Tribes around the land. They may be on a reservation, or they may be in a big city, living like the rest of America, trying to make enough to keep their head above water. However the one thing they have in common is their heritage and their ancestors watching them from afar. If you are one of these young people or you know someone who would be interested in learning this tradition please contact us we will be only to happy to teach the way of reaching the sacred red stone. Once the older generation of quarriers have passed on there will be very few who will be able to reach the Catlinite, no stone - no pipes - no ceremonies.

"Our ancestors would have encountered the same process and tasks as the modern quarrier does." - Chuck Derby

The younger generation are urgently needed to continue this traditional work. We hope that we can find enough people to train with our traditional quarriers before they have passed on thus leaving a void that no-one can fill, with the learning lost forever. This has to be done now.

Young people are needed to birth the sacred Catlinite so that pipes can continue to be made of this traditional stone.

"A physical description of how the sacred red stone lies in earth and quartzite rock would best be described as the vein of pipestone which is sandwiched between layers of quartzite rock" - Chuck Derby.*

The tools used to quarry Catlinite

*All excerpts by Chuck Derby are from his book 'Memories of Sacred Land - Contemporary History of the Pipestone Quarry '

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

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