Understanding the past

Helping SDSU students discover the history of pipestone

Representatives from South Dakota State University and Pipestone National Monument developed a way to create and establish a working relationship between the SDSU American Indian Studies program and the Pipestone National Monument. This relationship uses existing resources to serve the needs of both the National Park Service and South Dakota State on aligning education about the cultural significance, traditions and relevance of Native cultures and tribes.

“Pipestone Quarry on the Coteau des Prairies 1837-1837” by George Catlin, oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

“Pipestone Quarry on the Coteau des Prairies 1837-1837”
by George Catlin, oil on canvas. Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

The two signed a memorandum of understanding in May, bridging communication between tribal entities, nontribal entities and government organizations, like South Dakota State and the National Park Service.

“We are at a point where working together collaboratively is essential to all of our goals,” Richard Meyers, program coordinator for AIS, said. “Furthering relations within these two different and distinct communities and stakeholders is not a quick and easy process, but it is invaluable.”

The circle trail is 3/4 of a mile and displays the many features of the monument including Winnewissa Falls as well as the quarry pits. Photo, National Park Service.

The circle trail is 3/4 of a mile and displays the many features of the monument including Winnewissa Falls as well as the quarry pits. Photo, National Park Service.

The AIS program teaches students how to write, research, communicate with and analyze subject matters that pertain to American Indians and indigenous peoples. The program examines both historic and contemporary experiences and critically examines interactions that occur between indigenous and nonindigenous people.

The pipestone quarries are culturally significant and sacred sites to many Native American tribes in North America. The stone found at Pipestone National Monument’s quarries has been used in a variety of religious ceremonies for more than 3,000 years.

The quarries in southwestern Minnesota are the preferred source of pipestone for many tribes because the quality of the stone found in this location is much higher than in other locations.

The Pipestone National Monument was established in 1937, and today, Native Americans from any federally recognized tribe can quarry for pipestone. In addition to being used as a quarry for religiously significant stone, Native American groups gather at the location to practice cultural traditions.

Ben Stout

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