Greetings From Pipestone,

This page is coming to you from Pipestone, the home of the Red Stone quarries which were known as a Wakan (sacred and mystical) area by the Native Americans who visited them from all over the country.

Pipestone was traditionally thought of as a place of peace, and it was an unwritten law that everyone lay down their weapons when nearing the Sacred quarries. (2009: Please see the latest about carrying weapons onto the Monument Grounds where the Sacred Quarries are, HERE. A new page will open) On the journey to the quarries the visitors would stop and pray four times, the last probably being near the Three Maidens; boulders left by the melting glaciers, which sit southeast of the quarry line. Only a few people from the group would actually go to the quarry for the stone, the rest would wait in the camp area. There was a respectful fear where Pipestone was concerned, the people realized that it was a special place, and they behaved in a very reverent way when near to it. Today the quarries are still special, and Native Americans continue to visit the area to dig for the soft red stone.

Since the 80's however there has been a growing controversy where the quarries are concerned. The peacefulness of the area has denigrated into a seething mass of untruths and conflicts, due to misrepresentations and misconceptions.

This story will be on two pages as it is quite long.

The Pipestone Issue
written by Chuck Derby & Gloria Hazell

Page 1 of the Pipestone Story.


Many fictitious allegations have been implied, and directed towards the local Native American community who have lived and quarried the stone for at least four generations here.

One of the innuendoes is that the Native people in Pipestone are making a great amount of money for the stone, which is ludicrous. These people get little money for their hard work. If Pipes are expensive elsewhere in the country then that is the fault of the person doing the selling and the Creator will take care of that problem.

Here where the stone lays under our feet and we can feel the energy waves coming from it, none of the Original Dakota Tiospaye is making money. They respect the stone too much for that.

I would dearly love to see the people who are the accusers go down to the quarries to dig for stone themselves. I really don't think they would be able to manage it, because it takes many hours of tedious labor to reach the stone, which lays under an average of 8 foot of Sioux Quartzite; the second hardest rock in the world. Only hand tools such as sledge-hammers, crowbars, and chisels are allowed to be used by the quarriers.

Ancient handed down traditions are applied and the stone is taken out in layers. These layers are then cut up into smaller sections and the pipe-making process begins; again with hand tools. It can take many weeks for the stone to be reached implementing these slow, back-breaking methods.

Older people, such as Medicine Men, could not possibly reach the stone. Those without the knowledge knock themselves out for nothing more than a few pieces of cracked Pipestone, which cannot be used for pipemaking, and often physically injure themselves in the process.

There is a certain way to get to the stone, just hitting the quartzite isn't the way. The expert quarriers; the masters of the trade, have been at the ancient quarries for many, many years. At the start, as a youngster, just watching their own father, or grandfather working the stone. Then as a teenager progressing to throwing rock, or clearing the space made by the quarrier, which could be ten foot or more below ground level. Those rocks have to be removed before the soft stone can be dislodged and bought out of the pit. During all of this time the boy will only have been watching, he will not have done any quarrying himself. It is a long apprenticeship, and many do not stick it out.

This is the way the Pipestone traditionals reach the point of getting the stone, by long, hard, tedious labor, not frivolously, or without thought. It has been said by some so-called traditionals, who in some instances should know better, that these people are not spiritual, that they are selling the blood of their ancestors, and that they do not care. I will use an English colloquialism to that statement, 'Codswallop'.

These men who go down to those pits do so with respect, love, and a spiritual understanding, they are the ones who have kept the Pipe tradition and spirituality alive, had it not been for them and their forefathers the Pipe would have died out long ago. When others were demonstrating against one thing or another in the 60's and 70's, such as at Wounded Knee, Washington DC or Alcatraz, the people here were working to allow the demonstrators to continue to obtain their Catlinite or their Pipes in days when it was illegal to perform their ceremonies. They always had Pipes because these quarriers were here in Pipestone demonstrating their love for the People by keeping the traditions of the Pipe alive. They also fulfilled the part of caretaker and steward to these quarries and to the Pipe.

Many of the quarriers who have grown up with it, yearn for the quarries. If they can't get down there they become ill. Chuck hurt his back in January 2001 while we were in England and he couldn't walk for many weeks. He thought he wouldn't walk again, which meant he wouldn't be able to quarry again. He prayed with his Pipe many times asking that if he was supposed to quarry again he would be made well. During the summer he helped some new quarriers in their quarry, not swinging the hammers but advising and showing where they should hit the quartzite, he was there when they got their stone out because he couldn't stay away from the quarry. It is his life, it is in his blood, it is in his genes, it is in his spirituality. Right now, October 2001, just 10 months after he was struck down with a serious back injury, he is once more in the quarry that he has used for over 40 years, and he is getting stone out with help from his son. The Creator listened to his prayers and has answered them, he is once more quarrying.

If blood has been sold it is their own, and their sweat, pain and tears too. They surely have a right to use the stone in the way they feel is fitting as long as it is respectful. They earned that right. While others were sitting back and turning to the white mans' ways and religions; while they were forgetting their traditions and their ceremonies, these people were here, ensuring that when the time was right, when they were once again allowed to perform their ceremonies, the art of quarrying would be able to be continued without a break. They handed that knowledge down to their sons and so it was perpetuated for all time. Sundancers kept the Sundance alive underground, deep in the Reservations for the People, the Original Dakota People here did the same for the Pipe, but above ground for all to see. If it wasn't for these people the Pipe religion would have died.

The Quarrier is the most integral part of Pipestone, and the Pipe. Anyone can make a Pipe, I know because I (Gloria) have done so. However not everyone can Quarry. That has been proved time after time. Please remember that without the quarrier there would be no Pipe.

NEXT PAGE OF THE STORY: 'Misrepresentation'



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