PIPESTONE, MN (KELO) – Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota is more than just a park visitors can walk the trails.
It’s a place where everyday at least one Indigenous Person is carrying on the traditions of their ancestors. But for a long time, the educational exhibit on site didn’t portray the full history that goes back thousands of years. Now, that’s changed.
The process of quarrying is a long-standing tradition for Indigenous People in the Pipestone, Minnesota, area. One that is still practiced today.
“Keeping it going from our elders and ancestors and keeping the art, you know,” Mark Pederson, a stone worker and craftsmen, said.
With that, comes the tradition of pipe making and crafting.
“I have one brother left that makes pipes. And I’m the only one, of the girls, that makes pipestone in my family. I’ve been doing it for 51 years,” Jackie Martens, a small crafts maker, said.
Those traditions are why the Pipestone National Monument recently redid it’s entire exhibit so they could better display the history of the area.
“Previously, the exhibits that we had emphasized more of the fur trade and European cultures coming through and discovering the quarries for the first time, starting around the 1700s. Whereas, Indigenous People had been coming here already for at least three thousand years,” Natalie Barber, a park ranger, said.
Pipestone National Monument worked with 23 different tribal nations to create the new exhibit at the end of 2019.
“Thanks to the input from the 23 tribal nations we worked with, people get why Native Americans have been coming here for so long and the significance of it,” Barber said. “When they go out on the trail and they talk to the cultural demonstrators in the building, it will kind of reinforce that even though it’s a park, part of the National Park System, it’s not a playground. It is a very significant site and a sacred site to many people and this captures that.”
Jackie Martens is one of the cultural demonstrators on site. Visitors can watch as she makes her small crafts out of Pipestone.
“People appreciate it so much. This is something that they really, really need to have here for people to be able to see somebody actually working with the pipestone and everything, you know. Because, yeah, you can put pictures up and stories and everything but unless if you see an actual person doing it, you know,” Martens said.
She says one worry, though, is that younger generations aren’t as interested in the tradition of pipestone crafting.
“I mean, we’re all in our 60s that are doing it now, so. How much longer it will go on, you know, we don’t know,” Martens said.
Stone worker Mark Pederson sees that same loss of interest in the actual quarrying of Pipestone as well.
“Not many young ones, not many have grown up to do it, you know. I don’t know if they don’t have the love or how they grew up, you know, following everybody else’s footprints and history and tradition and whatever,” Pederson said.
Through education, staff at Pipestone National Monument hope to change that.
“We’ve been reaching out to a lot of Indigenous youth and Indigenous schools and schools that cater to Indigenous students to get them out here and connect them with elders. They learn to quarry, if they’re old enough. To learn at least about quarrying, quarrying classes,” Barber said.
Pederson has been quarrying this pit for 45 years now. He says he keeps going for both the past and the future.
“Natives down here, from around here and close by, we’re trying to keep this tradition and the life of it going, you know, ongoing for the near future,’ Pederson said.
Only people affiliated with a Native American tribe can quarry at Pipestone National Monument.