Native American Materials
Pipestone – Catlinite
Pipestone, also known as catlinite, is a form of clay with a high iron content that makes it range from a pale pink to the unmistakable deep blood red (brick color). The light spots, called stars, are scattered through the stone and add to its uniqueness.
Pipestone is smooth, is soft enough to make a great carving stone and can be polished to a high sheen.
The Plains Indians consider it to be a sacred material and it is often used for ceremonial items such as pipes.
It is also called catlinite, named after the American artist George Catlin. He recorded the Sioux legend of pipestone:
“At an ancient time the Great Spirit, in the form of a large bird, stood upon the wall of rock and called all the tribes around him. Taking out a piece of the red stone, he formed it into a pipe and smoked it, the smoke rolling over the whole multitude. He then told his red children that this red stone was their flesh, that they were made from it, that they must all smoke to him through it, that they must use it for nothing but pipes: and as it belonged alike to all the tribes, the ground was sacred, and no weapons must be used or brought upon it.”
Pipestone only comes from a few place in the world. Most pipestone that Native American artists use comes from southwestern Minnesota. Pipestone quarries are located and preserved in Pipestone National Monument outside of Pipestone, Minnesota as well as in Pipestone County, Minnesota.
Native Americans have been quarrying pipestone in Minnesota since 1200 AD and today only enrolled Native Americans are allowed to quarry for the stone at Pipestone National Monument.