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Grave of Chuck's Great, Great Grandfather that we found last week in Sisseton. He was a scout in the 1860's.

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Ancient Traditions.
By Gloria Hazell (Derby)
1997

I watch Chuck in his quarry, swinging the sledge hammer breaking up the quartzite and throwing it on to the top of the stone pile behind him. This pile has been there for over a thousand years. I see him when he comes home aching and sometimes bleeding. I rub his sore muscles with wintergreen, and I hope that he doesn't pull his back out again this year as he does often while quarrying. Eventually after a month he may come back home with some stone; he has reached the Catlinite layer 10 - 12 feet below the quartzite. That stone will be used to make pipes, either by him or someone he supplies the stone to. I hurt alongside of him when I see him aching so much but I know that this is his life's work, it is his families traditional work, it is his cultural work. More than that though it is his religion, his spirituality, his way to get closer to the Creator. His pain is worth it to him because he knows that he is doing something which will keep the Pipe religion alive, as his forefathers did before him.

This year however I have seen him in pain in a different way. He is reeling by the amount of complaints that are coming in to the Center about Pipestone being 'poor quality'. He wonders how that can be, because he knows with his heart and soul, that this cannot be correct. He works with the stone as he has done for over 40 years and he would know if the quality was changing for the worse. In fact the stone he gets is actually getting to be a better quality than he had 20 years ago. It is easier to carve he says; I wonder though if it is his expertise that allows that to happen. What ever it is though he KNOWS that the stone, is still good. 'Good' in this community means, sacred, red, easy to carve, and soft beautiful stone.

1,500 year olf pile of rocks at the Pipestone Quarries. ancient stone with lichen on

Today we walked over to his quarry and looked at the pile of rocks that his ancestors began 1500 years ago. (The pile in the picture above.) I noticed that some of the stones have lichen on them, which gives them a mystical quality. I thought about these people so many years ago breaking their backs and aching the same way as Chuck does now, and I wondered what they would say and do if they knew how the sacred stone that they traveled so far to get was today being imitated in a hoax across the world by people only wanting to get rich. They would probably never understand how unscrupulous men and women are capitalizing on an idea in which they deceive trusting people into believing that the stone they are selling comes from these ancient quarries in Pipestone.

This sham is causing Native Americans across the States to think that the ancient quarries are being abused and that the Native people who quarry for the stone here are making a great deal of money. There is nothing further from the truth. It cannot be done. It is impossible for any one who quarries in the old traditional way to get as much stone out as is being put out in the market. We worked out a few years ago how long it would take one person quarrying in the old traditional way as they have to do here, to get one truck load out, it came to 16 years! I think to sell one truck load of stone every 16 years will not make anyone rich.

The stone that is sold worldwide makes no-ones back hurt or muscles sore, it is not done in a spiritual way, and unless a dollar is their religion it is not done in the name of the Creator, as the true Pipestone is. To use a backhoe, a front loader, and a bulldozer in the place of a sledge-hammer, a wedge, a shovel, and a human body and soul, is exploiting the land, it is making the Earth Mother scream, and that is not something that the old ones would tolerate.


We know of one Native American man who got a quarrying permit, and then proceeded to load up his truck with the cheap false stone, and then went back to South Carolina to sell the stone as pure Catlinite. Of course if anyone queried it, he had the permit to pretend that was where he got it from.
When Native Americans themselves are ripping off their own spirituality it makes you wonder what can be done.

The traditional tools a quarrier uses, even today
Traditional tools a quarrier uses even today.
The quarrier at the ancient quarries has had stewardship over this small area of land for hundreds of years. Will the new Millennium bring with it a new guardianship of the stone? Will we have to copyright the stone like we do with our artwork and writings? Will we need to register legally each piece of stone that the Catlinite quarrier draws out of the earth? Will we ensure that anyone obtaining stone gets an authentication certificate from the government? Or will the people themselves rise up and stop the counterfeit stone from being sold in the name of Minnesota Pipestone/Catlinite? Will they themselves become sick of being taken advantage of by these imposters?

Something has to happen to stop this deception. A culture's religion will die if something is not done soon. There will be so much of the imposter stone out there, which is such bad quality, yet is still being given the name Catlinite or pipestone. That hard, cracked stone will cause no-one to trust in the real stone any more, or the people who quarry it in such a traditional way. I would hate to see Chuck in such a position because of people who wouldn't know truth, spirituality, honesty, hard work, integrity or tradition even if they walked up and tapped them on the shoulder.

false stone pile
On the left is a pile of stone from one of the Jasper quarries, on the right is the pile from Chuck's quarry.
You will notice that the left one has a mix of stone and earth, but the other is only rocks. That is because a bulldozer has been used to push the left one into place but the other one has had every stone put in place by hand.

old rock pile

 

More photos are at http://www.littlefeathercenter.com/photos.html

The following photos were added in the Fall of 2006

top of the jasper quarrytop of the jasper quarry The left picture is of Chuck looking down into his quarry. The other shows him working in the quarry, this photo was taken from inside the quarry
Chuck at the top of his quarry

 

 

 

 

This photo was taken by me at the top of the quarry looking down to the bottom of the quarry where Chuck is standing in water. He has to work in this water as it cannot be moved easily.

The red stone above him is NOT Pipestone it is Sioux Quartzite. Often those who don't know about quarrying believe that this red stone is Pipestone and they actually take it to make pipes with. An impossible task as the stone is the second hardest in the world only diamond is harder. The following picture shows how the quarrier gets out the quartzite.

The wedge is inside a crack in the quartzite. This is how the quarrying is done, the cracks have to be found and opened by tapping wedges into them gradually the wedge gets deeper until the crack breaks open. The cracks are sometimes only hair thin and the quarrier has to find them, not easy to do.

The photo below shows the water at the bottom of the quarry, but there is also something else - the Pipestone. The stone lays in this quarry about 10 feet below the surface of the ground, 10 feet that Chuck has to remove by hand. Here the red markings in the quarry is the Pipestone and Chuck then needed to get to it to remove it. This took him another few days. This is the true, genuine Pipestone Catlinite, I know because I watched the process and saw it removed, I experienced the sacredness of the birthing. I cried tears of emotion when I saw the first piece emerge from the depths of it's home. I was on top of the quarry but I still felt it because it is so powerful. Now imagine how the quarrier feels. Does anyone believe that the quarrier would desecrate that which he has birthed?

You have to be fit to quarry, you have to have the knowledge, and you have to have the spirit
within you to reach the joining of the earth, the stone and the Creator. There is no exploitation in these quarries
by these men. Those who believe otherwise should take hammers, wedges and crowbars in hand and try it themselves.

Gloria Hazell

 


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