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

Charles Loloma Badger Paw Pendant

When this piece arrived in an estate lot several years ago, I fell in love with it immediately – purely for its design and symbolism. I didn’t even look at the back – just thought it was an extraordinary piece.

Then I turned it over…..and………thought………..could it be?

I started googling and soon had a strong feeling this could be a piece by Hopi legend Charles Loloma.

So I wrote to the niece of Charles Loloma, Verma Nequatewa.

Sonwai is the artistic name used by Verma Nequatewa. Verma began working with her uncle, the late Charles Loloma, in the mid-1960’s and continued working with him until his studio closed in the early 1990’s. At that time, she opened her own studio and has been continuing his teachings through her own jewelry.

Here is the reply I received from Bob Rhodes in response to my photos and email to Verma : “The pendant has a tufa-cast back and inlay of turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral and ironwood. It is difficult to see the detail in the photo, so I may have missed something.
The piece represents what Charles called a “Badger Hand.” Charles was Badger clan and this is his concept of a combination of badger paw and human hand. It was most likely made at the Loloma Studio at Hotevilla, AZ in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. At that time he often did not differentiate between turquoise from different mines. He had a wash basin that he put all sorts of turquoise in, then picked pieces out for different colors and shapes. He did only use natural, not treated, turquoise, so some of the stones will “mature” or change color as they are exposed to light, air and skin oils. What you have is a very representational piece of Loloma jewelry of that time period. ”

Well I got goose bumps and thanked them both so much for the thoughtful and detailed reply.

They appreciated the photos as they are collecting as many as they can of Charles Loloma’s pieces.

Charles Loloma (1921-1991) was an active Hopi artist from 1949-1991. He is one of the most innovative and influential Native American artists of his time. He used many techniques including tufa casting, lost wax casting, stone and wood inlay, and cobblestone.

Although he was also a painter and ceramicist, he is most well known for his jewelry.

This badger paw pendant is an example of the high stone-to-stone inlay he became so well-known for.

According to Loloma himself, “I am not versed in the exact date that I started working in jewelry, but my guess is it was in 1947 when I was a student at Alfred University. I was working in pottery and silver.”

In the mid 1950s Loloma moved to Scottsdale, Arizona and began making jewelry in earnest.

The name Loloma translates to “many beautiful colors” which is certainly evident in his work. He broke from the tradition of solely using turquoise and coral by adding unusual stones of bright color as well as fossilized ivory and imported woods such as iron wood.

Much has been written about Charles Loloma – see Southwestern Indian Jewelry, Crafting New Traditions by Dexter Cirillo.

Paula

Navajo Silversmith Roland Dixson

Navajo silversmith and artist Roland Dixson produces traditional sterling silver pieces with excellent stampwork.

Roland Dixson Naja Pendant

Roland Dixson Naja Pendant

Characteristics of his style include scalloped edges with deeply domed centers.

Roland Dixson belt buckle with scalloped edges

Roland Dixson belt buckle with scalloped edges

The stamping is deep, intricate and not repetitive from piece to piece. He also incorporates repousse as evidenced in the photo showing the back of the buckle.

Roland Dixson buckle back showing evidence of repousse

Roland Dixson buckle back showing evidence of repousse

Repousse is a technique whereby metal is hammered into relief from the reverse side.

From the pieces that have come through our store, it appears that Roland Dixson uses only natural, untreated turquoise. Here is his hallmark.

Roland Dixson hallmark

Roland Dixson hallmark

I don’t know much about this artist so if anyone has any biographical information, I’d love to hear it.

Paula

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Lakota Four Winds Pipes

Four Winds

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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.

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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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The Hand Symbol in Native American Art

Horse Fetish by Carol Martinez, Zuni

Horse Fetish by Carol Martinez, Zuni

The Hand

In Native American art, the hand usually represents the presence of man. From the earliest hand imprints on cave walls, the hand depicts a man’s work, achievements and his personal history.

When a hand had a swirl in the middle of it, that is said to be the “eye in hand” and represents a mystic, or all-seeing, hand, the presence of the Great Spirit in man.

Mystic Hand Pendant

Mystic Hand Pendant

A Native American’s horse was highly honored and often covered in symbols for various purposes. This would vary from tribe to tribe but hand prints were often used in various positions on a horse to mean different things.

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The most prized handprint was when preparing for battle, if it was a kill-or-be-killed mission, an upside-down hand would be placed on the warrior’s horse.

If a horse knocked down an enemy, right and left hand prints were put on the horse’s chest.

The Pat Hand Print was the left hand pressed onto the horse’s right hindquarters. It was put on a horse who had returned from a dangerous mission with his master unharmed.

Horse Fetish by Carol Martinez, Zuni

Horse Fetish by Carol Martinez, Zuni

Paula

Bracelet from the sale basket at the Heard Museum

April 28, 2014

Hello Paula,

About ten years ago (or perhaps a few years more than that) I purchased a silver bracelet from the “sale” basket at the Heard Museum. It was an old piece that I have come to love and for which I often receive compliments.

The piece had no visible identifying markings – until recently when the piece of turquoise fell out to show an engraved floral design at the base of the 2×3 cm oval that encased the stone. This is something that I had never seen and thought perhaps it could help provide information about the piece and who made it and increase my connection to the bracelet

The bracelet itself is fashioned from three double strands of open braided “rope” with the rough piece of turquoise set in the middle. On each side of the bracelet on top of the “rope” is a right facing arrow below that is a right facing eagle. There is a hammered finish to the entire piece.

Pictures are available of course. Can you help?  Thanks so much.

Jennifer

Bezel Front Inside_Back Side_1 Side_2Hi Jennifer,

First of all, thank you for your patience. This is the last question from April – I am trying to get caught up!

Second and more importantly, what a great bracelet ! I can see why you bought it !

For those not familiar with Heard Museum, you can read about it here.

About all I can say about your bracelet Jennifer is that it does show:

whirling logs

Thunderbird 

(and here’s another article about Thunderbird)

handmade arrows and a beautiful Turquoise stone.

As far as the pattern underneath the stone, rather than a hallmark, I think it is more an indication of re-purposing a piece of silver that had been used or started for another project.

Perhaps other readers have comments.

Paula

To view our full list of article or to ask a jewelry question, follow the instructions here
http://www.horsekeeping.com/native-american-jewelry-artifacts.htm

If you are selling your jewelry, read this
http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn-buying.htm

Visit our pawn shop for your research and shopping
http://www.horsekeeping.com/jewelry/pawn/pawnshop-vin.htm

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Vintage Bell Trading Co. nickel bracelet.

Silver tone symbol bracelet – could it be a Bell Trading bracelet?

Hi Paula, I am the person who is anxiously awaiting the copper stamped Bell Trading bracelet CSB32.

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I have a question about a piece I have.  It looks exactly like the piece I have purchased except it is nickel silver looking.  It does not have a Bell hallmark, but at one end in the border depression there appear to be 2 “C’s” facing each other like a figure 8.  There also appears to be a copper or brass metal under the silver tone metal finish.  At one tiny place a different color metal can be seen and there is a greenish-blue hue along one edge.  The fact that this piece is the exact replica, except for stamping, of the piece I’ve purchased is intriguing.  Do you have any ideas where I could get more information about it.  Thank you very much.  Dorothy

bracelet 003 bracelet 012Hi Dorothy,

There have been a lot of nickel plated Indian symbol bracelets made since the 1930s.

Yes it is identical to the copper one you purchased from our store which had the Bell trademark stamp on it. And it seems like it could very well be nickel over copper although it is hard to tell from a photo.

As to the hallmark, I am not familiar with it.

Perhaps someone else knows about the CC Figure 8 type stamp and can help.

Paula