Located in southwestern Minnesota, Pipestone National Monument is anomalous among national park areas. Containing the famed pipestone quarries of Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha," Pipestone National Monument is one of the few places in the United States that has deep spiritual meaning to more than one culture. Native Americans revere the site for the soft stone found there, while Euro-Americans have cast the quarries within the bounds of their romantic consciousness of a lost natural and cultural history of the continent. Decisions made about the administration of the quarries expand out from Pipestone in overlapping series of concentric rings. Since the establishment of the monument, administration has required tact, sensitivity, and creativity.
As did much other American Indian land, the pipestone quarries passed to the federal government as a result of treaties. After 1858, the only area of Minnesota to which the Yankton Sioux or Lakota people retained any claim was the 640-acre reservation that included the quarries. In 1928, after more than 30 years of legal maneuvering over the nature of that right, the Yankton received a monetary settlement. The quarry passed to the undisputed control of the federal government.
With clear title, efforts to utilize the quarries for other purposes proceeded. In 1932, a group of local citizens, led by a local woman named Winifred Bartlett, began to push for a national park area. Five years later, Pipestone National Monument was established, one of the first national monuments proclaimed by legislative action rather than executive fiat.
The National Park Service faced typical problems at Pipestone. Initially, there was no budget for management and upkeep and only a volunteer to watch the monument. After the Second World War, a permanent superintendent came to the monument. Despite the commitment of personnel resources, the monument required much more before it achieved the standards the National Park Service established for its units.
The arrival of the first full-time employee in 1948 was the beginning of a 24-year period of growth and expansion at Pipestone. MISSION 66, the largest capital development program in history of the park system, built the physical plant at the monument. A new visitor center was the highlight of the program, which included housing, facilities, and a physical plant. In the late 1960s, another development began. Directed toward creating a climate of inclusion, a cultural center was constructed. Called the Upper Midwest American Indian Cultural Craft Center, the structure created an environment in which American Indians could practice their craftmaking skills and display their work.
The construction of the center was the last large capital project at Pipestone. Since the 1970s, issues such as relations with Native Americans, cultural and natural resources management, the annual Hiawatha Club pageant, and threat to the park have dominated planning at Pipestone. As elsewhere in the park system, Pipestone has been hampered by the changing emphases of park policy, usually dictated from outside the agency, as well as a growing dearth of resources to support programs. With an important piece of the cultural heritage of the continent and the concomitant natural resources management issues, the monument had a complicated and sometimes expensive mission to fulfill. With the resources at the disposal of park administrators, attaining such goals will require foresight, planning, and careful management.
Last Updated: 21-Aug-2004