Situating and Explaining the Sacred Pipestone Quarries of Southwestern Minnesota within a Greater Cultural Landscape

Author(s): Mark Calamia

Year: 2015


Evidence of American Indian occupation and use of the pipestone quarries (now Pipestone National Monument) has been dated to least 3,000 years ago. For centuries Indians have considered the quarries a sacred site. Today the quarries are also considered ethnographic resources as members of numerous federally recognized American Indian tribes continue to express their right to quarry pipestone (catlinite) and carve this stone owing to its spiritual value. Although numerous studies have been conducted at the quarries, the need still exists to situate and explain this remarkable 361 acre site within a greater cultural landscape that extends beyond the boundaries of the Monument. This paper presents an approach for understanding the site within a sacred geography that includes places that continue to have cultural values for many contemporary Native American people throughout the region. Using a combination of archaeological, geographic, and cartographic data coupled with ethnographic responses from Dakota and Iowa Indian elders, I will attempt to explain possible connections between the Monument’s quarries and other natural sacred sites within an ethnographic landscape. Finally, I will suggest various functions that these sites served with respect to one another in the context of a tall grass prairie landscape.

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Cite this Record

Situating and Explaining the Sacred Pipestone Quarries of Southwestern Minnesota within a Greater Cultural Landscape. Mark Calamia. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395104)


Geographic Keywords
North America - Midwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -104.634; min lat: 36.739 ; max long: -80.64; max lat: 49.153 ;