Pipestone carvers preserve revered Native spiritual tradition in Minnesota prairie

by Madison Thomas
Dakota Pipestone Carving Tradition

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Dakota Pipestone Carving Tradition

What is the significance of the pipestone for the Dakota people?

The pipestone holds immense significance for the Dakota people. It is quarried and carved into pipes, which are integral to their prayers and communication with the Divine. The pipestone is seen as sacred and is central to their spiritual practice. When the pipestone bowl and the wooden stem are joined, the pipe is thought to become sacred.

Who can quarry at the Pipestone National Monument?

Only individuals who are enrolled in federally recognized tribes can obtain permits to quarry at the Pipestone National Monument. Some individuals travel from as far away as Montana and Nebraska to do so. The National Park Service manages the site and works to ensure that the quarrying process is respected and not interfered with by visitors.

How is the tradition of pipestone carving being preserved?

The tradition of pipestone carving is being preserved through teaching and demonstration. Carvers like Cindy Pederson regularly hold carving demonstrations, and there are initiatives to engage Native youth, such as new exhibits and tailored school field trips at the Pipestone National Monument. There is a focus on not only teaching the techniques of quarrying and carving, but also on helping the youth develop a relationship with the pipestone and its place in the Native worldview.

What are the differing views within tribes about the sale of pipes?

There are differing views within tribes about whether pipes should be sold, especially to non-Natives. This has been a point of tension, with some individuals supporting a more open perspective and others advocating for stricter restrictions on the use and sale of these sacred items. This disagreement extends to the use of pipestone in crafting other art objects like carved animal figures.

What is the origin story of the pipestone as told by the Dakota people?

One of many origin stories told by the Dakota people involves a massive flood in an ancient era that killed most of the local inhabitants, with their blood soaking into the stone and turning it red. The Creator then appeared, declared it a place of peace, and smoked a pipe, establishing this as a way for people to connect with him. This story symbolizes the deep spiritual connection the Dakota people have with the pipestone.

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Bob Davis July 16, 2023 - 10:11 pm

Never understood how sacred the pipestone was to the Dakota people. Fascinating, and also a bit sad that these traditions are dying out. Hope we can preserve them!

Jane Smith July 16, 2023 - 11:28 pm

its so important to keep these tradtions alive… the youth should know about their roots and their ancestors skills.

Mike Ross July 17, 2023 - 12:18 am

Loved the read, didn’t realize there were so few carvers left. Hope this art doesn’t disappear.

John Doe July 17, 2023 - 7:42 pm

Amazing article! never knew how deep the spiritual connection goes with the pipestone carving tradition… really opened my eyes.

Emily Brown July 17, 2023 - 7:50 pm

It’s really cool how they’re teaching the younger generations to keep this alive. the spirit of the ancestors live on!


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