"On the Mountains of Prairie,
On the great Red Pipe-stone Quarry,
Gitche Manito, the mighty,
He the Master of Life, descending,
On the red crags of the quarry
stood erect, and called the nations,
Called the tribes of men together."
Henry Wardsworth Longfellow
Flicking through a beautiful book I was gifted recently on sacred sites, a site, in particular, caught my eye, Pipestone National Monument located in Southwest Minnesota, in the U.S. Described as enormous spiritual importance to American Indian cultures with a feeling of immense peace to those who grace the land was enough to have me immediately hooked. So, naturally, I automatically scanned the relative pages to find out more. However, my curious side needed more than the six pages this fascinating book offered, and so, the weeks of research and spiritual journey to this beautiful location began.
Pipestone National Monument is a special quarry to many Native American tribes and described by many as a cut jewel upon folds of shimmering green velvet. Shaped like a triangular wedge, the formation of this rock began over 1.5 billion years ago. Pipestone consists of three rock types - Pipestone (red clay), quartzite (sand), and conglomerate (gravel). It is believed an ancient river deposited thousands of feet of sand throughout the region. Then, either a flood or settlement deposited clay buried under thousands of feet of more sand. The pressure and heat from the deep burial turned the clay and sand into stone, currently known as the Sioux Quartzite, exposed today in parts of southwest Minnesota, southeastern Dakota, and northwest Iowa.
Indigenous people have inhabited Minnesota since the eleventh century. Yet, it became much publicised due to explorers such as George Catlin and their extraordinary tales throughout the nineteenth century, which may have had disastrous consequences for the welcoming tribes due to selfish visitors.
George Catlin once quoted, "this place is great (not in history, for there is none) but in traditions and stories." So Catlin wrote in his book, "here (according to the traditions) happened the mysterious birth of the red pipe, which has blown its fumes of peace and war to the remotest corners of the continent, which has visited every warrior and passed through its reddened stem the irrevocable oath of war and desolation."
Tradition states the Great Spirit called the Indian nations together. Then, standing on the precipice of the red pipestone, the rock broke from its wall, turning the piece in his hand, a huge pipe was made which he smoked over them and to the north, south, east, and west. The Great Spirit told them this stone was red and it was their flesh, that they must use it for their pipes of peace, that it belonged to them all and that the war club and scalping knife must not be raised on its ground.
Pipestone has been a common neutral ground amongst the warring tribes ever since. Weapons are forbidden, and all who gather here must do so as friends regardless of their differences. The sacred site willingly offers up its stone for producing ceremonial pipes to those who adhere to the rules.
The pipes comprise a stem representing the male and a bowl representing the female; when joined together, the complementary parts represent the people while the smoke ascends to the sky carrying the prayers to the Great Spirit.
"When you pray with this pipe, you pray for and with everything."
Pipestone National Monument
Uniting both spiritual and physical worlds, the soft red stone was honored and treated with great respect by all tribes. However, Pipestone has, unfortunately, been far from peaceful for the many tribes who would congregate here. From tribes having their sacred land unknowingly signed away, unnecessary buildings built, and railroads placed throughout, it's a wonder how these lovely people remained so dignified with all the excessive stresses and strains proposed on them through outsiders.
After decades of anxiety and hardship for Native Americans, in 1937, a resolution was agreed to create the Pipestone National Monument, protecting and preserving the pipestone quarries and their quarrying traditions.
At present, Pipestone National Monument consists of 301 acres, of which 56 quarry pits are still active and reserved for American Indians who are enrolled in a federally recognised tribe. If you are inpatient and the ten-year waiting list for an annual quarry permit is a little long, applications for a daily, weekly, or monthly pass will be considered. Although, with the primary rock so hard and only the use of hand tools (no power tools) allowed, I'm not sure how much you'll accomplish in one day.
Today the Monument can be accessed by the general public; a trail around the quarry provides easy access to the intrigued visitors. Legend states that if a light rain descends from the skies as you approach the site, you are welcomed by the Great Spirit.
Three huge boulders lay at the entrance of the Monument. Named the "Three Maidens" after various traditional stories, they have been declared the guardians or caretakers of the quarries. Many American Indians and visitors leave offerings at the Three Maidens as a sign of respect.
For me, Pipestone National Monument is up there with the greats. Winding paths and over 400 native plants, seventy species of grass, streams, waterfalls, and sweeping views, a visit here in person, through a screen, or mediation is a must. Be sure to look out for the
old stone faces formed within the rocks, whether created like that deliberately or our eyes playing tricks on us, will be sure to bring a smile to your face when you begin to notice them.
If you would like to learn more about Native American history,
please feel free to click the link below.
Sending Love & Light