Sacred Red Pipestone from Minnesota

Lakota horse pipe carved by 4th generation Lakota pipemaker Alan Monroe from pipestone he quarried from Pipestone National Monument

 

From the website of Pipestone National Monument 

“When you pray with this pipe, you pray for and with everything.”  -Black Elk

 

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For countless generations, American Indians have quarried the red pipestone found at this site.

Red Pipestone is also referred to as Catlinite. Read more about Catlinite by clicking here.

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 These grounds are sacred to many people because the pipestone quarried here is carved into pipes used for prayer. Many believe that the pipe’s smoke carries one’s prayer to the Great Spirit. The traditions of quarrying and pipemaking continue here today.

More information from the Pipestone National Monument website

Located in rural southwestern Minnesota, the pipestone quarries are considered a sacred site by many American Indians. For the last 5,000 years or more, tribes across the central region of North America have traveled to this site to quarry. Today, they still travel long distances to this site to continue the tradition of pipestone quarrying and pipe making. Since 1946, the 56 active pipestone quarry pits have been managed by issuance of a quarry permit.

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Pipestone quarrying is often an underappreciated part of the tradition surrounding pipe making. The task of extracting pipestone from the earth is slow and laborious using hand tools not much more advanced than the tools and methods used in past millennia. The process can require many days of physical labor with only sledgehammers, pry bars, chisels, wedges, and steel bars allowed. Good physical condition is a prerequisite.

 

A cross-section view of a quarry showing the layers of earth and quartzite that needs to be removed before reaching the layer of pipestone. Note that the pipestone seam is angled downward. Over time, the quarriers must remove more and more quartzite, one of the hardest rocks in the world, to continue extracting the pipestone.

Depending upon the specific quarry and amount of material extracted, experience has shown that quarrying time can be estimated at two to six weeks to reach the subsurface layer of pipestone. This pipestone lens is sandwiched between layers of very hard Sioux Quartzite formation rock. Depending upon a quarry’s location along the quarry line, the upper levels of quartzite can be four to ten feet thick above the pipestone layer. Prairie plants and soil varying in depth from one to six feet cover the upper layer of quartzite.

Quarriers use shovels and wheelbarrows to dig up surface soils and glacial till. Then they dump it in rubble piles at the rear of the quarries. Subsequently, broken pieces of quartzite rock are also discarded.

The upper layer of quartzite is composed of multiple quartzite strata, with vertical fractures and cracks in the rock. Wedges or chisels are placed into these cracks can be driven down with sledge hammers to break apart loose individual quartzite blocks. Upon loosening a piece, it is worked free with a steel pry bar and allowed to drop to the floor of the quarry. Heavy sledge hammers are then used to break the bigger chunks of quartzite into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be lifted and thrown out of the back of the quarry. The process of breaking out the quartzite is repeated many times until the pipestone layer is exposed.

See the slide show below which shows the blessing and quarrying of the pipestone that is used to make the items in our store

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The smaller pieces are also used in building a rock retaining wall along the front of the rubble pile. The rock wall serves as a barrier so that as additional quartzite and soil are thrown or stacked at the rear of the quarry, the rubble pile is prevented from collapsing back into the quarry. Building a sturdy retaining wall to keep rock and fill out of the pit is an essential part of managing a quarry and a very important protective safeguard for quarriers.

Sacred Catlinite Ceremonial Necklace

Once the pipestone is exposed, care must be taken in removing the stone as it is very fragile and when handling large slabs it can break. The pipestone layer may vary from 10 to 18 inches thick and it too is composed of multiple layers from 1 ½ to 3 inches thick. Individual layers are carefully removed one slab at a time by driving wedges into the natural horizontal seams. The natural vertical cracks in the quartzite carry down through the pipestone, which allows the quarrier to remove the pipestone layers in irregularly-shaped slabs or tabular blocks.

Raven Effigy Pipe

The quarry pits are located in the bottom of a bowl-shaped drainage. In the spring and early summer months groundwater from rain and snow melt collects in this low lying area, filling the quarries with water. Most quarriers prefer to work during the summer to late fall months to avoid the groundwater problems. Monument staff will assist quarriers by pumping water out of the quarries, but only two days ahead of when quarrying is planned. Often, when it is high, groundwater will flow back into the quarries as fast as it is pumped out. Since continued pumping will not reduce the water level, it will not be attempted during these periods when groundwater is high.

Buffalo Effigy Pipe

Paula

Lakota Four Winds Pipes

Four Winds

pipes-four-winds-A

The Four Winds are evoked in many Lakota ceremonies. The Four Winds are all wakan. Wakan is a Lakota word which represents mysterious powerful beings or spirits.

4W6-T-pipe

The first wind is the WEST, Yata. This is where Wakinyan (the Thunderbird) lives. It is where all animals are created and the West Wind is present when man and animals die. The West Wind is strong and mighty but good natured. It is where the sun goes to rest. The eagle is the akicita (marshall) of the West Wind.

The second wind is the NORTH, Woziya. The tonweyapi of the North are the white owl, raven and wolf. Tonweyapi are aides – they can be marshalls, soldiers, spies or counselors. The North Wind is strong and usually cruel but occasionally jolly. The things he touches grow cold and die. The North Wind decides if the dead people are worthy to pass or wander forever cold, hungry and naked.

The third wind is the EAST, Yanpa. The nighthawk is the tonweyapi of the East. The East Wind sleeps a lot. It is called on to help the sun and the dawn appear. And it gives a place for the moon to regrow. The sun and the moon know and see everything on earth and they tell it to Yanpa. Lodges face east to please Yanpa. The East Wind is evoked by the sick asking for a rest.

The fourth wind is the SOUTH, Okaga. The tonweyapi of the south are waterfowl and the meadowlark. The South wind makes beautiful things, flowers and seeds. It is the giver of life. It is kind and brings good weather. The south is a place where spirits can go after death.

The winds are sometimes at odds with each other over women or other things. Iktomi (spider wakan) purposely stirs up trouble among the Four Winds so he can have fun watching them fight.

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What do I have to do to break in my new catlinite pipe?

Hi Paula,

Really stupid question, but is there any pre-treatment, heating or whatever to do to the pipe bowl prior to smoking it? Just a little nervous of cracking the bowl with the heat from the tobacco and the kinnikinnick burning in there.

Kind regards

Phil

CEP65-horse-1Hi Phil,

Nothing is needed for breaking in the pipe. Catlinite (pipestone) is the perfect material to make pipes out of. It can be smoked quite a bit but still be just a bit warm on the outside. That’s because pipestone is a clay and it porous so it cools quick and has give. So it won’t break. It is natural pipe material and that is why it has been used for many many years by Lakota and other pipe makers.

Paula

How Should I Decorate my Lakota Pipe and Stem?

Hi there all at Horsekeeping,

I have received my pipe bowl and pipe stem around two weeks ago now (thank you very much!) and have done nothing with the stem as yet. My animal totem is the Grizzly Brown bear, and wonder what decoration I should use. I feel that I should leave the pipe bowl untouched and treat the wood and decorate the stem only. I have thought about using some bead work on leather with the sacred hoop colours and using eagle feathers and (if attainable) bear fur. If I was to do this I think it may be difficult to attach if I treated the stem with say bees wax. Any suggestions?

CTP108-350w CTP-overview-700w

Kind regards

Phil

Hi Phil,
We feel you should look to your heart or your spiritual adviser or tribal leader for help in choosing how to adorn your pipe.
Beeswax would make it difficult to make things stick to the wood but often leather or pelts are laced onto the stem when the leather or hide is wet, so it shrinks tight onto the stem.

Paula

Old Praying Feather – Can you help?

Hi Paula, I have in my possession a very old praying feather but cannot determine the origin or tribe in which it came, can I send you some pics about it and maybe you can help me with this. I was thinking maybe Hopi or Navajo but need to be sure.
This is very important to us because we want to bring it back to the tribe and it’s people where it belongs. We found it doing a trash out of a foreclosed property and it should be right to give it back.
Thanks. Tom
129 130 137 138 139 140Hi Tom,
I’ve seen fans like this made by Apache and Navajo.
Here is a similar style of Apache fan
CF53-hawk-1
Here is one made by a Navajo
SF806-turkey-pink-nash
It is possible it could also be a Plains tribe.
Perhaps one of the readers of this blog recognizes your fan.
Paula

Lakota Four Winds Catlinite Pipe

Four Winds

 The Four Winds are evoked in many Lakota ceremonies. The Four Winds are all wakan. Wakan is a Lakota word which represents mysterious powerful beings or spirits.

pipes-four-winds-A

Lakota Catlinite Four Winds Pipe by Alan Monroe

The first wind is the WEST, Yata. This is where Wakinyan (the Thunderbird) lives. It is where all animals are created and the West Wind is present when man and animals die. The West Wind is strong and mighty but good natured. It is where the sun goes to rest. The eagle is the akicita (marshall) of the West Wind.

The second wind is the NORTH, Woziya. The tonweyapi of the North are the white owl, raven and wolf. Tonweyapi are aides – they can be marshalls, soldiers, spies or counselors. The North Wind is strong and usually cruel but occasionally jolly. The things he touches grow cold and die. The North Wind decides if the dead people are worthy to pass or wander forever cold, hungry and naked.

The third wind is the EAST, Yanpa. The nighthawk is the tonweyapi of the East. The East Wind sleeps a lot. It is called on to help the sun and the dawn appear. And it gives a place for the moon to regrow. The sun and the moon know and see everything on earth and they tell it to Yanpa. Lodges face east to please Yanpa. The East Wind is evoked by the sick asking for a rest.

The fourth wind is the SOUTH, Okaga. The tonweyapi of the south are waterfowl and the meadowlark. The South wind makes beautiful things, flowers and seeds. It is the giver of life. It is kind and brings good weather. The south is a place where spirits can go after death.

The winds are sometimes at odds with each other over women or other things. Iktomi (spider wakan) purposely stirs up trouble among the Four Winds so he can have fun watching them fights.

Native American Award for Valor, Courage and Bravery

Is there a Native American symbol awarded to great warriors for valor, courage, and bravery in battle much like the Silver or Bronze Stars awarded to soldiers? If not, can you make a suggestion? Thank you very much.

Wess

Hi Wess,

A Lakota friend of mine sent me this. I hope it is helpful. You can browse our feather hair ties here. Feather Hair Ties. Paula