Truth About the Pipestone Quarries and the Sacred
upon a time there was an area in what is
now known as America that was very special
to the indiginous people of that land. they
walked for many days to reach this highly
unique place because to them it had unusual
qualities and so they called it 'Wakan';
a great spiritual mystery. They left their
marks there around a collection of big boulders
that they knew did not come from anywhere
close to that place. The area in the summer
was inhabited by dragonflies, flitting here
and there faster than the eye can see, and
these again they thought were Wakan. Some
engraved pictures of these creatures in
the red quartzite rocks, and they can still
be seen today in those same rocks that were
removed over a hundred years ago. At Jeffers
the petroglyphs have been dated back some
4000 years, the ones in our story are probably
just as old.
in the distant past someone saw in the shining waters of the stream
that flowed winding through the area something different, and they
waded in to see what it was..... They found a hard material there
in those waters, it was red and they wondered why it was the color
of blood, this probably gave them the incentive to do what they
did next...... They knew that it was very special and so dug it
out of that clear water. Word spread around the Nations and soon
others were coming to find this special stone that had been discovered.
They found that it was soft enough to be carved into totems but
that it was hard enough to withstand weather and elements.......
probably led by Tunkashila crafted a simple
tube that they used to smoke the sacred
plant tobacco and they found it didn't break
or wear away. They sent their prayers to
the Great Spirit via this tube, and began
to think that this was sent to them by Tunkashila
to use for just that purpose. They made
more of these tubes and passed them around
to the spiritual leaders of the tribes,
they have been found in different areas
of the States and so it looks as if they
were probably traded back in those days.
For example a pipe was found in a burial
in Georgia and carbon dated to 950 A.D.
long the People crafted more sophisticated
tubes that evolved into the elbow and the
T shape Chanupas that we know today, for
these special creations the stone had to
be quarried from the Earth Mother and a
few people decided that they would travel
to this place where the wonderful stone
was found to do just that for their people......
They would walk in a small group for safety
and once there set up their campground and
then would chose who would do the work.
They would then go and leave offerings to
the spirits at the large boulders where
the carvings were located and then wait
for a visit from the Thunder Spirit Beings,
for they believed that with those spirits
by their sides their work would be fulfilled
easier. Often if the storm clouds and thunderbeings
didn't arrive they would return to their
homes without the special stone
may be wondering where this special place is located, well today
we know it as Pipestone National Monument, in Pipestone Minnesota.
The Indiginous Peoples still come to the
same place to get their stone for their
Chanupas, but now they have a harder time
to get it than their ancestors did because
the stone is deeper than it was back then.
When that first person found the stone
it was basically at surface level, but
now about a thousand or more years later
it is found about 8 to 12 feet below the
surface, and lays beneath the second hardest
rock in the world, Sioux Quartzite.
you think, 'Well that is ok because they can use the technology
of today to reach the stone so that Quartz should be no problem.'
the quarriers of today cannot use such tools, they have to continue
using old fashioned hand tools such as pickaxes, hammers and wedges.
The red stone seam is fragile in it's hardness, and if something
heavy drops on it it can be cracked, so the work to extricate
the stone is done very carefully and gently so that it doesn't
is also in the rules of the Monument that only these tools can
be used to keep the stone from being mismanaged or over harvested.
government recognized many years ago that to quarry any differently
could destroy the stone. They made other rules as well, the main
one is that only those indiginous people who are enrolled in a
tribe can quarry. They have to show their tribal identities before
they are issued with a permit to quarry. Non indiginous people
cannot even help with quarrying. A quarrier can lose his site
and his permit if he is found to have a non tribal person working
may wonder why a permit is needed, maybe you think it is just
another 'big brother' tactic, but actually it is a sensible idea.
Pipestone Quarry is actually not one big quarry as you may suppose
but a lot of small quarries on average big enough for maybe 2
men to use at the same time without getting in each others way.
A few are larger.
Each quarrier has his own quarry for a year with that permit,
no-one else can use it without his permission. That way any work
that he has done will not be utilized by anyone else, so he can
leave after a few weeks knowing that when he returns to finish
the work in a month or so he can continue from where he left off
and no-one would have touched his quarry.
system works and people like Chuck Derby have used the same quarry
that their father and grandfather used because it is renewed every
year. As long as they have worked the quarry during the year they
have the right to renew the same quarry each year, so that they
can keep continuing to work on places that they can see have the
cracks to break the quartzite into smaller pieces.
have heard Chuck say so many times something like, "well next
year I have a corner that I can continue working on, I have exposed
it so that it will be easier to break through."
Native Americans who quarry the sacred red stone at the Pipestone
National Monument are automatically stopped from getting a lot
of the stone out every year. For a start the tools that they use
do not allow a quick extrication, it is very hard, slow, tedious
work, and can be quite dangerous as well.
I know of one quarrier who lost his eye when a chip of the quartzite
hit it, another slipped and fell into the quarry and broke his
knee in eight places..... All of them get cut by flying chips
of quartz and come home aching and bleeding at the end of a hard
day quarrying. This is what they go through to get the stone out
for the People, those who need a Chanupa and cannot quarry themselves
for one reason or another.
thing that stops the quarrier harvesting a lot of stone is the
weather. For at least 4 months there is snow on the ground and
in the quarries, you couldn't get in even if you wanted to. On
top of that the temperatures in the winter are below freezing
and so even if you could get down in the quarry the air would
freeze you. In the summer it is very hot in the area and only
the hardiest people go down to quarry, the air is still and the
sun beats down on you, and in a quarry that heat is magnified.
the spring and fall it rains quite a bit and this makes the quarries
slippery and so again no work in the quarries is done on wet days.
Often the quarries are flooded by ground water so before you could
get to quarry the pit has to be pumped out.
all only about half the year is available to quarry, one man working
alone takes a long time to get to the red stone layer there is
no way a lot of stone can be harvested at the great pipestone
quarry, which is now the Pipestone National Monument
few years ago a survey was done by a mathematical acquaintence
to find out how much stone quarriers get out each year and the
average amount was taken........ We had heard that there was a
rumor that truck loads of stone were being taken from the quarries
and so wanted to do an experiment to prove that this rumor was
We asked a haulage company how much a large truck would hold by
volume, and our acquaintence worked out the volume of the stone
that the average man brings out every year.
By doing that we saw that it would take 18 years for that one
average man to fill one truck. There was no way that truckloads
of stone were being taken out of the sacred quarries.
you continue reading you will find out where the stone that is
being sold in great amounts comes from.
price of Pipestone is free....... what is paid for is the time
taken by the quarrier to excavate the stone. In some cases a few
did another experiment to find out the amount of money it costs
the quarrier to get the stone out. Again we took an average quarrier
and added up his expenses for the time taken to quarry.
divided the amount of stone he got out into his expenses and at
the time we came up with a cost of $8.20 for each pound. The price
asked per pound at that time was $8 per pound. SO the quarrier
was working at a loss.
that time of course the cost of everything has risen and so has
the stone it now stands at $10 per pound again the quarrier is
working at a loss, subsidising the stone for the people who need
people are quite happy to pay the quarrier with a blanket, Chuck
has a closet full of them? However they don't pay the electricity
bill or put food on his plate. Often they are second-hand blankets
and so he would not be able to sell them on, so he keeps them,
cause he is a nice guy and will not refuse the stone to anyone.
The people who pay this way feel better because they have done
an exchange as in the old days, or because they believe you should
not barter with cash for a pipe.
know for a fact that he usually gives away the stone to elders,
those who cannot because of their age quarry themselves, I am
sure that most of the quarriers do the same thing, because they
are quarrying for the People as their ancestors used to.
Do you know that in the old days an indiginous person would give
the Pipe maker a gift, an exchange, for a pipe. Back in those
days the quarrier and Pipe maker were respected members of their
Tribes. Often they were given gifts of food, they were taken care
of so didn't have to go hunting themselves.
rare occasions a horse was given in exchange for a pipe. Now imagine
that in todays terms... their horse is like our vehicle, and we
all know how much they cost don't we... thousands of dollars,
yet the pipe maker of today is expected to give their work away,
people begrudge paying them for their work, and they do not ask
for thousands of dollars, just enough to cover their costs plus
some to cover their workmanship just like any other trade would
top of this they are shown no respect but have people saying they
are exploiting the pipe, such as these people who are doing it
now. The problem here is that these people doing this have no
idea whatsoever of the process of quarrying and pipe making. If
they did then I believe that they would know that the pipe makers
should be respected as in the old days....
Maybe if these people complaining now and those signing the petition
against the quarrying of stone and the pipe makers would go down
and quarry themselves or would try making a Chanupa, they would
realize how hard it is and would slink off and hide under the
nearest stone in embarrassment. Their ignorance on this matter
is very embarrassing, it is very disruptive and very insulting
to those people who are doing this work in a highly commendable
have watched Chuck quarry for many years and it never ceases to
amaze me how gentle he is with the stone. After leaving offerings
each day and lighting sage in the quarry he will start off by
running his hand along the sheer wall of the quartzite, he does
it slowly and methodically until he feels a hairline crack, he
follows this crack with his hand until he finds where it runs
to. If it is useful to him he will get a chisel and start to tap
it into the crack, once the crack gets wider he will use a wider
chisel or a wedge and continue tapping it. Often when this is
done a whole part will open up and he can then take it and remove
quartz comes out in layers, and so once one layer is gone he will
move to the next layer and so on until he gets to the layer above
the pipestone. This work can take weeks to do.
then has to carefully remove the final layer and then find out
where the backside of the Pipestone layer is, if he finds that
not enough quartz had been removed to reach the back side he has
to go to the top of the quarry and start all over again until
he has removed enough to reach the backside of the pipestone.
He then wiggles the pipestone and pulls it until it comes out.
quarriers who are not as experienced as Chuck (50 years) often
get frustrated with the process and will do what is called 'under
mining' to get the pipestone out. They will dig under the quartz
layer and cut the back of the pipestone layer to fit the opening
they have formed. This is something that is not accepted as correct
proceedure by the experienced quarriers, but it is understandable
if the quarrier has only a short time to get to the stone and
has to leave for the year. He wants to go home with at least some
stone and so under mining is done.
of the things that Chuck did a couple of years ago was to offer
all Tribes the opportunity to send some of their young people
to Pipestone to learn the way quarrying and pipemaking are done.
He sent out information about weekend workshops where the youngsters
would go down the quarry, and actually craft a pipe over a 2 day
If any of these young people showed an aptitude for this work
and wanted to learn more they could have come to stay with Chuck
and he would have mentored them.....
accommodation, food, and the learning was all going to be free
for all of the youngsters, all the tribes would have to pay for
was the fares to get them to Pipestone and back.
The reason this was offered was explained in the information sent
out. Experienced quarriers are very few and far between, those
like Chuck who are experts are now almost at the age when they
can no longer do the work, and none of the younger generation
want to continue this special work, it is too hard, too tedious
and too dangerous for them.
once the quarriers of today can no longer do the work there will
be no stone available for those who want a pipe. No stone, no
Chanupa! You do not just go and quarry, as people seem to think,
there is an art to it. You cannot just hit the stone cause all
you will get will be sparks, and can damage the pipestone.
thought that this would be something the Tribes would be interested
in, as they all use the Chanupa. However not one Tribe answered,
not one Tribe sent anyone to the workshops. This is how worried
they were about not having any pipestone in the future. I was
totally amazed at this.
scientific data on the Pipestone is not a lot, the stone that
George Catlin had analized had a breakdown that has been used
for the Catlinite, however each quarry has stone that differs
to it's neighbour, the one thing that it has in common is it is
easy to carve as it is actually a clay and the quartz content
is nil, and the differences show in the color, some red, some
pinker, the amount of white in the red, and the texture.
is chemically a clay (silicate of alumina) colored brick red with
peroxide of iron.
Scientific breakdown of Catlinite is as follows:
Silica--------- 48.20 Mangananous Oxide--------
Ferric Oxide--------- 5.00 Magnesia-----------
Carbonate of Lime -----2.60 Loss--------------
Analysis by Dr. Charles F. Jackson, Boston chemist. circa 1836
has it that the redness of the Catlinite
is the blood of the ancestors, but the
stone was formed many millions of years
ago before any life existed on this planet,
even in the Sioux Quartzite that lays
above the Catlinite and so was formed
later there are no fossils indicating
no living thing was present at that time.
In a museum article it was said that Indians preferred this more
pure clay over other red stone found else where, and that the
jasper stone had more quartz in it.
stars showing in the genuine Pipestone from what is known as the
Chanupa is not owned by any one Nation, it has been used by indiginous
peoples all over what is now the United States of America for
is certain that the Nakota should not call it theirs. Long before
the Nakota became a tribe in their own right, before they ended
their nomadic journey from the Carolinas to South Dakota Pipes
were being made and used by the Indiginous people of the land.
Pipes have been found that carbon date back to over a thousand
Nakota (Yankton and Yanktonai) only came to the Minnesota Valley,
(along with the Lakota (Teton) and Dakota (Santee) bands - known
collectively by the wrong name 'Sioux') in the 16th Century. From
there they migrated to where they are located now in the early
18th Century. The Nakota are in Eastern South Dakota and along
the Missouri River, the Lakota further west in Central and western
South Dakota, and the Dakota stayed mostly in Minnesota. When
Catlin came to see the quarries in the 1800's it was the Dakota
people who asked him to stay away. It was the Dakota who thought
of the area as theirs. The Nakota didn't come into the equation
until the late 1800's/early 1900's. When they sold the land to
the US Government.
Pipestone, petroglyphic carvings have been found of pipes that
date back to about four thousand years ago. (see below) These
could not have been made by the Nakota as they did not exist at
the time in the area.
Of course before the red stone pipe came to be, pipes were made
from other materials, such as bone, antler, steatite, argalite
and other less hardy stones. When the red stone was discovered
it soon became the material of choice because it was so easy to
carve with a harder stone and yet it was also very durable. It
did not burn away when the tobacco was alight, and would only
crack when dropped.
is a well known, documented fact that the Yankton Tribe used to
come to Pipestone to quarry in the early 1900's, they would go
back to their reservation with wagon loads of stone and would
then make and sell pipes and trinkets from the stone. In the old
Pipestone newspaper there are reports of the Yankton coming to
town in large groups to quarry. They would stay for quite a while
and it would be a time for the townsfolk to get to see Native
far as we can tell from our research no Nakota group have traditionally
lived in Pipestone. So where the words of it being the 'Ihanktunwan
DaNakota Homelands' comes from we have no idea. No Native people
actually lived in Pipestone until Moses Crow and his family came
there. Moses was Chuck's grandfather, and he was Santee Dakota,
above information is about the Pipestone Quarries and the Chanupa.
After reading it I hope that you will see that the Pipestone Quarriers
could not get out the amount of stone that is being sold worldwide.
However there is stone being sold and so where does it come from
if not Pipestone?
will tell you........
at the Little Feather Indian Center in Pipestone wondered for many
years what was going on. We had heard about all of the stone being
sold that people were saying came from Pipestone, and we knew that
couldn't be the case because we knew the proceedure of quarrying
wouldn't allow that much stone to be taken out. From about 1976
we knew that there was a quarry in Jasper Minnesota that was owned
by a non-native and he was quarrying red stone but we never realized
that he was selling so much or selling it as stone from the quarries
in SW Minnesota. Well that was true because his quarry is also in
the SW MN area but we realized that people were buying this stone
thinking and believing it was the sacred stone from Pipestone.
found a message on the internet in 1998 from the man who owned
the quarry, he stated that he sold 90% of all pipestone in the world
at that point.
course with the sales of this stone being so high we wondered how
so much stone was being taken out so we investigated and found machinery
at the private quarry site. We watched and saw the stone being ripped
out of the earth by the machinery. We knew that this stone could
not be the same consistency as the Pipestone stone because it would
break if it was. True Pipestone cannot be treated in this way.
this time another private quarry has been opened in Jasper, and
this quarry yields a great amount of stone. It is sold everywhere,
you can see it in rock shops, on Ebay, in stores that sell Native
American items, and in souvenier shops.
is sold again as Pipestone, in some places they say it is Catlinite
from the Pipestone Quarries and this is where the trouble starts.
People not knowing a lot about the genuine Catlinite believe that
this stone is really from Pipestone. They are told that Native Americans
use it to make their Pipes from and so they buy it. They then find
that it is hard to cut and either think that this stone is not as
they had been led to believe or they contact the Native American
Community in Pipestone and complain about it.
year (2003) the first quarry was sold to a company in Pennsylvania, the Appalachian Rock shop
do please Google them and see that they do not, of course, get their stone
from the Pipestone quarries and read their thoughts on this.
Pipestone/Catlinite can be easily cut with a hacksaw, even a regular
knife. If the stone that you have will not cut easily, breaks your
tools, quickly dulls your blade, cracks or similar mishaps happen,
then the stone you have is not pure Catlinite.
at the Little Feather Center we were receiving complaints about
the stone that people were buying. They said things like the stone,
cracked when I tried to carve it, or the stone broke my tools, or
I managed to carve something but it took ages because the stone
was so hard. We again knew that our Pipestone stone did not do that.
As we say Catlinite never disappoints.
are a few of the complaints we received.
the way I loved your story of the Jasper quarries. I purchased some
stone at a Pow Wow here in Arkansas that I have a hunch came from
there. I was assured that it could be shaped with a "butter knife".
Well, these people must have better butter knives in their kitchens
than I have in mine because I had trouble cutting this stuff with
a carbon saw." - pup59
I did not know about the false pipestone, explains a lot. We had
been gifted some red stone that was said to have come from the sacred
quarries. But was so brittle, when we started to work it, it just
cracked and splintered." - Michael
have in the past used stone from ......... I am tired of being ripped
off by this guy!!!! with stone you could not cut with a diamond
bit, or stone that is so fractured it is not usable, I don't make
hundreds of pipes usually just a couple a year. - Marvin, May 2003
tried to carve my own pipe for prayer work before but the stone
was very hard and eventually it broke. I thanked Wakan Tanka and
asked to be shown why it broke. After reading this site I'm thinking
that maybe I was sold a fake stone. - Andrea, Oklahoma, October
few years ago my brother had sent me a piece of pipestone and it
was soft and very easy to shape. This year he sent another piece
and it is, I'll use the term "hard as a rock", I am having a lot
of trouble shaping it. - November 2002
did get some of the fake stone that you mentioned from a seller
on eBay. I don't know what in the world it was that he sent me,
but it wasn't the real deal. When I'm able to do so, I should probably
send the stone that I got from eBay to you to look at. Thanks again,
- Del June 2002
have unsuccessfully tried to make a pipe from the few pieces of
"not so great? stone I have been given, and it?s full of hard
places and then crumbly places. I feel it has been very frustrating
for a reason. I have been on the wrong path. I know real pipestone
is the right path. - Joe August 2003
well as those complaints we heard various things that were coming
out of Indian Country, such as 'The Pipestone Indians are doing
something wrong because the stone has turned bad.'
Native American quarriers and pipe makers from Pipestone, from the
Pipestone Dakota Community are again taking the flak for the actions
of a few non-native people.
Non-Native people, NOT the Pipestone Dakota Community are the
ones making the money. However these Non-Natives although they are
exploiting the spirituality of the people who want to make a pipe,
they are not actually exploiting the genuine sacred stone from the
Pipestone Quarries. They are selling the stone from their own land.
is a difficult situation, they sell their own property but are selling
a stone that can easily be mistaken for the sacred stone, and as
we have seen IS often mistaken. A whole Bill (1851C) has been written
because of that stone and many Native Americans, are very upset
and angry about it. If you have any answers to this problem please
let us know.
article has been written because of the ongoing lies
about the Quarries from a few un-knowledgeable people
who continue to spread their ignorance through the years.
They ought to know better, they ought to know the truth,
they ought to know where the quarries are and they ought
to have quarried themselves before spreading untruths
to the People. However they have never quarried, they
have never even been to Pipestone to see the truths
for themselves. They know nothing about the 'false'
pipestone, and continue to perpetuate a myth that started
in the 1980's that the quarriers here are doing things
wrong and in a disrespectful way. The People believe
them because as I say they ought to know the truth,
but they don't.
Pipestone Dakota and all quarriers of Catlinite are
being made the scapegoat of those who have no idea of
the history, the work, or the unbelievable connection
that these quarriers have to the stone and the area.
above information is the true history of the Pipestone
Quarries, written with respect by Gloria Hazell. ©