at the Three Maidens:
A History of the Sacred Boulders.
Hiawatha Pageant is no longer performed. The last performance
was in 2008. So the boulders known as the Three Maidens are
no longer used as a backdrop. However some visitors, do still
disrespect them by climbing on them, we have witnessed people
taking photos of their friends standing on one of the boulders,
kids clambering over them while their parents stand watching,
teenagers just sitting on the top, and even a time when a man
was just standing there on the top of one of them. There is
of course a notice telling people not to climb on them but it
seems some people can't read. I have to say here that the majority
of people are respectful and just take photos or stand by the
side of them, or just look at them from afar, but I guess in
any place there will always be one or two who go against the
rules because they probably think the notice doesn't apply to
them, who knows.
of the Three Maidens showing a sign that has been erected there
update: This page has been updated due to the Park
Service and the Hiawatha Pageant taking action to protect the
Three Maidens area. We have to thank both organizations, we
have left this page here to show that we have been continuing
to caretake the area and have been getting results.
We thank all of you who wrote in to help.
This page was originally written and posted online in 2002.
what the first settlers to visit the Pipestone area saw; almost
flat prairie, not many trees, tall grass, many beautiful wildflowers,
butterflies lollygagging in the breeze, dragonflies darting
here and there, rabbits hopping in front of them, basically
a wonderful wilderness which they thought belonged to them.
However there was something in the area that Native American
people had been treking to for centuries; the ancient quarries
where the stone for the sacred Pipe was found.
try to picture how the first non-native man to go to the quarry
area felt as he saw the large granite boulders that had been
deposited on the prairie on the edge of the quarries by the
glaciers. Someone like George Catlin would probably have known
that these giant boulders did not belong in that area. They
were made from granite something that was usual north of Minnesota
but not here in this area. I wonder how the man reacted when
he saw the petroglyphs pecked into the quartzite ground around
the boulders. So many of them done by an artist or spiritual
leader eons before he set foot there. The dragonflies that flew
around his head were depicted on these rocks, and so he had
to have known that these insects were around when the artist
pecked out his work. He had to have known also that this area
where he was standing was very special, a site that had caused
people many centuries before to spend the time to make these
pictures. He would have counted at least 77 different petroglyphs,
all laid out in a semblence of order that only the ancients
would have understood.
Charles Bennett, the founder of Pipestone, saw the petroglyphs
he dug them up. The 77 different pictures ended up in
36 slabs of stone, which Mr Bennett then took around
to places such as state fairs where he won prizes for
them. There is a photograph of him with the slabs and
he looks quite proud of himself.
Chas. Bennett passed away he left the slabs to the Pipestone
Historical Society, but when they were checked there
was only 16 of them left, somewhere, somehow, along
the line 20 of them had disappeared.
remaining are now on display at the Pipestone National
of the ancient petroglyphs, this one is really interesting
as it looks very alien
the time of Bennett, there has been a commercial quartzite mine
close to the Three Maidens, this was operated by non-natives,
and left a huge pit which was eventually filled with water and
is today owned and used by the Hiawatha Pageant Club, who performed
the Hiawatha Pageant on it every summer for over 50 years.
Hiawatha Pageant use a staging area just in front of the Three
Maidens, and a couple of years ago we noticed that a hole had
been drilled in one of the boulders to allow their props to
fit securely on to the rock. We felt that this desecrated the
site once more. The photos below show how this looked at the
2003: After the National Monument contacted the Hiawatha
Club about this desecration, the practise was stopped. Seems
the person who did it didn't realize he was doing wrong! So
thank you to anyone who wrote to the National Monument, words
do often work miracles. This is just another chapter in the
long history of these sacred boulders. We hope it will never
be repeated. Of course we also realize that once something has
been damaged in this way it can never be put back to the pristine
way it was originally, it will always carry the scar.
Three Maidens area is still used for ceremony by Native and
non-native people every year, offerings of one kind or another
are left there on the rocks or under them, which is traditional.
Most people are respectful of the area, however this year in
particular while we have been monitoring the site, we have witnessed
people climbing on the rocks, both children and adults, native
we did a ceremony at the Three Maidens with a few other people,
one of them a man who travels all over the world doing ceremony
for peace. Some of the people left offerings such as prayer
ties (tobacco ties), the man left a wonderful stone that came
from one of the countries he had visited. These items were left
on the rocks or in crevices in the boulders. All of the people
felt that as this was a sacred site that the offerings would
be safe. We were wrong. A few days after the ceremony we revisited
the Three Maidens to take some photographs of the hundreds of
dragonflies that were filling the air in the area. We found
to our shock that the offerings had all been moved. Some were
thrown on the ground, some were missing, all had been touched
and removed. This is abuse of our religion on a large scale.
of our offerings just thrown on the floor
are going to request the government, who have ownership of the
Three Maidens area, put up notices telling people that the area
is highly sacred, and requesting that people do not climb on
the rocks, and definitely do not touch or move anything they
find there. If this doesn't work we will request that the area
is fenced off and only ceremonialists be allowed access. (This
is what happened in England, Stonehenge was being desecrated
by visitors, and so it was fenced off and the Druids are only
allowed access on Solstice each year, and sometimes special
parties, usually non-English, non Druids, are allowed inside
the stones. This causes much heartache for those who follow
the old ways of the country, who would like access. However
they realise that it saves the ancient stones from being demolished
by ignorant people.)
2004: Again another positive result. The Monument have put
up a notice as was requested to tell people not to touch items
in the area, and not to climb on the boulders.