Administrative History
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The establishment of Pipestone National Monument was a direct result of the settlement of the court case with the Yankton. The Indian School had been a prize catch in the late nineteenth century, but the people of the twentieth century demanded different kinds of federal support. Minnesota's singular lack of national park areas, the cultural significance of the quarries, active local support, and the depressed economic climate of the 1930s, in which the federal government rescued local economies, made the location of a national park area at Pipestone desirable. Local leaders and the Minnesota congressional delegation pursued this opportunity. This confluence of factors led to serious efforts to create a national park area at Pipestone that came to fruition in 1937.

The idea of a national park area at Pipestone had a long history. Early efforts at creating a park began as the town of Pipestone sought to find a federally funded anchor for the local economy. Along with the attempts to secure an Indian school for the town came suggestions of a national park. In 1890, some of the many petitions that circulated in favor of the school also referred to the establishment of a "national park or reserve." [1]

This scattershot approach to acquiring federal support did not reflect the realities of the time. National parks were few and far between in 1890; only Yellowstone and Mackinac Island in Michigan had long-standing national park status at the time, while Yosemite, Sequoia and General Grant national parks were created that year. Among historic and prehistoric places, only Casa Grande ruins in Arizona had been authorized to be reserved. In 1890, while there was a piece of legislation on the books for that purpose, no authorization for administration had yet been approved. More than two years later, President Benjamin Harrison finally authorized more than paper protection for Casa Grande. [2]

National parks were a different kind of prize in the late nineteenth century. They had little perceived economic value, for tourism and travel had not yet become important regional industries. No federal bureau existed to manage national parks, and in 1890, military protection remained the sole means of guarding the existing ones. Parks were perceived as large and spectacular natural areas, and no other category of reserved areas for cultural treasures existed. [3]

With this set of limitations, the proclamation of the quarry area as a national park was unlikely. Pipestone was too different from existing national parks. Its features were primarily cultural, not natural or scenic, and it was diminutive in contrast to Yellowstone or Yosemite. Despite the fact that in the process of negotiating the settlement of Yankton land claims during the 1890s, an agreement was reached to maintain the quarry as a national park, the idea was too much of an anomaly for serious consideration. In 1895, a bill put forward for that purpose expired in the Public Lands Committee of the House of Representatives. In 1899, James McLaughlin, an inspector for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, negotiated an agreement with the Yankton that included the maintenance of the quarries as a national park or reservation. John Wesley Powell, the powerful head of the Bureau of American Ethnology, offered support, but Congress declined to ratify the agreement. [4] Pipestone remained in limbo. Although real definition of the national park category had not yet occurred, the general conception of a national park seemed to preclude the inclusion of Pipestone.

Between 1900 and the early 1920s, the title dispute with the Yankton dominated local affairs. Despite efforts to utilize the quarry in a number of ways, the lack of resolution of the status of the land hindered the chances of any kind of permanent park. In one of many such examples that occurred, in 1916 plans for a recreational park for the local community were drawn up by a local architecture and engineering aficionado. But because of the dispute over title to the land, the project never went beyond planning. [5]

As the title case moved through the court and claim process, other park efforts followed. In 1919, the Pipestone Businessman's Association received permission from the superintendent of the Indian school to develop a portion of one of the lakes on the reservation into a swimming area. Local funds supported the construction of a bathhouse and modification of the shoreline to create a beach. With a small recreational facility already built, the leadership of the business community sought to acquire a 14-acre portion of the reserved area. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Charles H. Burke informed them that until the dispute was settled, no permanent decisions could be made. Again the lack of clear title thwarted local efforts. [6]

But the direction of such local efforts was far different from the plans to preserve the quarry as an important part of the cultural heritage of Native Americans. Local proposals focused on a recreational park, seeking the use of lands with spiritual significance for more mundane, albeit important purposes. Faced with the growing power of local entities in relationship to the federal government, the quarries became vulnerable to expropriation. In this respect, the dilatory process of deciding who owned the quarries helped protect the area from uses that would have negated or eliminated the cultural features of national significance.

The desire to develop the quarry area was not confined to local people. By the early 1920s, much of the open land in the United States had been appropriated, and a nascent state park movement developed. Midwestern states such as Iowa, Indiana, and Minnesota were in the forefront. Minnesota established two state parks in the 1890s. By 1920, Iowa had emerged as a hot bed of conservation sentiment. In January 1921, 200 people met in Des Moines at the first of a series of annual meetings of an organization called the National Conference on State Parks. The idea spread. Within two years, officials in state government in Minnesota provided the impetus for a state park system. In 1923, State Auditor Raymond F. Chase offered a long list of potential state park areas in his biennial report to the Minnesota legislature. Pipestone was prominent on the list. [7]

The momentum generated at the state level encouraged local people to continue their efforts. The Pipestone Kiwanis Club encouraged the state highway department to conduct a survey, and a directive from the governor's office set the process in motion. W. E. Stoopes, an assistant state engineer, executed the survey, finding among other things that the bathhouse erected was not part of the 14 acres previously requested. Stoopes recommended that a 22- to 24-acre area around the Winnewissa Falls be made into a state park. The area, he determined, had "no value . . . except for park purposes." ["8] Despite acknowledgment of the cultural importance of the area, the proposal presented a strictly recreational park.

The Pipestone community wholeheartedly supported the idea. In September 1924, as Stoopes' report circulated in the statehouse, the American Legion post in Pipestone organized a volunteer work force to help maintain the area. They cut weeds around Winnewissa Falls, hauled loose rock to the foot of the first small lake below the falls, scraped the lakebed, and built a small dam. This raised the level of the lake, making it more attractive as a site for swimming. [9]

The problem of clear title continued to limit the prospects for a permanent park. Despite a groundswell of support for the park both in St. Paul and Pipestone, the effort remained an exercise in futility. A Pipestone Park Committee was formed in the town. Minnesota state representative H. J. Farmer of Pipestone introduced a bill in the legislature to create Pipestone State Park. After its passage in March 1925, the governor signed the bill into law. But there were stipulations. The bill was contingent on the transfer of the land from federal authorities to the state, and again the commissioner of Indian affairs pointed out that the government could not release land to which it did not have clear title. Despite passage of the state bill, the process was stymied. [10] Without clear title, the land remained under the control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Although the state park never became more than a paper document, the momentum generated had positive effects on the quarry area. Besides the drive to make the area more suitable for recreation, a significant amount of energy went into demonstrating that the quarry had historical significance. In an effort to show the importance of the area, efforts began to acknowledge the nineteenth-century explorers who visited Pipestone. In September 1925, these came to fruition when members of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) placed a bronze commemorative plaque on the stone carrying the inscriptions of Joseph Nicollet and his party." [11]

The end of the court case in 1928 created new opportunities. With title cleared, the primary obstacle to some sort of permanent resolution disappeared. Yet other issues remained. By the late 1920s, a decision about the relative merits of the recreational and cultural attributes of the Pipestone quarries and their environs had to be made. The state park remained a paper entity, requiring only the transfer of the land from the federal government to become real. But other groups had a broader scope in mind. U.S. Rep. Frank Claque of Minnesota, a primary supporter of earlier park efforts, again became interested in the quarries. The local DAR passed a resolution that favored the establishment of a national park or monument. A groundswell for some kind of permanent park area developed.

One woman played an instrumental role in the process of creating Pipestone National Monument. Lean and long-faced, with a look of determination in her eyes, Winifred Bartlett had been born on a farm a few miles north of the quarries. She graduated from Pipestone High School in 1903, trained as a teacher, and taught for a number of years. After changing careers, she worked for law firms and eventually for the U.S. Attorney's office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As court reporter for the Yankton case in the 1920s, Bartlett heard heard all the testimony. This experience heightened an already strong interest in cultural affairs in general and in particular, the Pipestone quarries. [12]

Prior to the 1930s, Bartlett had been active in a range of local issues. She developed a reputation as a local organizer and an advocate of preservation. She played in a role in the petition that the DAR developed to support a national park project. [13]

The founding of the Pipestone National Park Association, which later became known as the Pipestone Indian Shrine Association, revealed her extraordinary organizing ability. On a cold night in January 1932, a group of approximately 35 people met in the Calumet Hotel in downtown Pipestone. Representing nearly every local community organization and association, they sought to create a new entity to preserve the quarries in some kind of national park area. The new association formed an executive committee, which included Bartlett, Edward A. Trebon, Tad A. Bailey, Rev. Joseph Mangan, and Ruth Morgan. In a February 11, 1932, meeting, the executive committee agreed to seek the support of the only local federal employee of any significance, James W. Balmer, the superintendent of the Pipestone Indian School. Balmer understood how the federal government worked, and during a trip to Washington, D. C., he sounded out Bureau of Indian Affairs officials as well as others in the Department of the Interior. When he returned, the process of evaluating the quarries for park status had begun. [14]

Balmer persuaded the members of the association that although a Bureau of Indian Affairs representative would come to visit, that agency was not the best one to fulfill their wishes. Aware of the activities of another bureau in the Department of the Interior, Balmer believed the National Park Service was best suited to administer a park at Pipestone. But the Bureau of Indian Affairs remained in control of the quarries, and its officials had to assess the situation at Pipestone. In April 1932, Charles Berry, a BIA field representative, visited the area and answered questions. He and Balmer filed a report with the commissioner of Indian affairs that supported making the quarries into something they called a "National Indian Shrine." Despite this stance, Berry reiterated Balmer's contention that the BIA was the wrong agency for such action. Following this lead, members of the association sought out the National Park Service with a plan to highlight the historical and cultural significance of the area. [15]

Since its founding in 1916, the Park Service had become one of the most important agencies in the Department of the Interior. Prescient leadership by former borax tycoon Stephen T. Mather and his alter ego Horace M. Albright, success in acquisitions in the East, widespread congressional support, and a singular flair gave the agency a distinct identity. Between 1916 and the end of the 1920s, Mather and Albright added seven major national parks—including the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Carlsbad Caverns—to the system, developed an integrated system of rail service, planned a park-to-park highway that would link all the major national parks, and built a strong base with the public. The Park Service even played an important role in supporting the state parks movement, offering the resources of the agency as a clearinghouse for information. It also stood in the forefront of the Department of Agriculture. Despite the terrible economic depression of the early 1930s, NPS officials sought to expand their domain. [16]

The Hoover administration was cooperative. President Herbert C. Hoover himself had strong conservation credentials, and he recognized that he was likely to lose the election of 1932. The economic climate of the early 1930s and Hoover's inability to grasp the need for a massive and comprehensive federal response made the chances of re-election remote. Even Albright, a lifelong Republican who succeeded Mather as director, recognized and accepted that Hoover's presidency was doomed. [17] But the loss had some advantages for the Park Service. After Hoover became a "lame duck" president in November 1932, he sought to prepare a conservation gift to the nation.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gave him the power he needed. With it, the president could proclaim as a national monument any parcel of the public domain with prehistoric, historic, or scientific importance. After 1907, when Congress abrogated the president's power to reserve national forests in the West with just an executive proclamation, the Antiquities Act became the most important piece of legislation available to preserve the public domain. The law gave the president vast leeway, and Theodore Roosevelt consecrated the idea of lame duck proclamations when he reserved more than 600,000 acres of the Olympic Peninsula in his last 48 hours in office in 1909. The Antiquities Act gave Hoover a powerful tool, and precedent for any use he might care to make of it existed. [18]

In Secretary of the Interior Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur's department, E. K. Burlew was the most important staff member. He served as executive assistant to Wilbur, acting as a both a conduit and buffer between the secretary and the heads of the various agencies. One of the most trusted men in the Hoover administration and one of the few high-level appointees that Franklin D. Roosevelt's secretary of the interior, the curmudgeonly Harold L. Ickes, chose to retain, Burlew served as the eyes and ears of the department. During the summer of 1932, he embarked on a tour of potential park areas that included Pipestone. While impressed with many areas, Burlew was not enthusiastic about the inclusion of Pipestone in the park system. He saw the quarries as an interesting natural place, but failed to recognize the nature of their historic value. [19]

Burlew's perspective was not unusual for the time. His views were similar to those of the people who sought to highlight the cultural importance of the quarries by commemorating the Nicollet marker. In the 1930s, heritage usually meant the history of European transplants to the New World and what was perceived as their advancement towards modern civilization. Few places commemorated American Indian life or culture, and those that did generally portrayed conflict between Indians and whites. Most often in popular culture, Indians were portrayed as savages devoid of the attributes of civilized people. Relativism had not yet become a mode of thinking in American society, and only a few of the elite and the educated genuinely appreciated other, non-European cultures.

Hoover's conservation gift to the nation materialized. Between December 1932 and Roosevelt's inauguration in March 1933, he proclaimed five new national monuments, Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado, the second Grand Canyon National Monument, north of the park boundaries of that time, Death Valley, White Sands, and Saguaro. [20] Pipestone was not among them.

Pipestone's absence resulted from two reasons, one legal, the other cultural. The reservation was not in the public domain, rendering the Antiquities Act ineffectual and requiring an act of Congress to allow the establishment of a monument. As a lame duck, Hoover had little clout. Congress had grown noticeably hostile as Hoover's administration failed to respond to the chaos in the nation, and it had little reason to give him what he wanted. In addition, the features at Pipestone differed from those of most of the other candidates for national monument status. Since Albright sought to develop the representative area parks, the emphasis had shifted to typical areas of unusual flora. Albright recognized that to grow was to remain healthy, and that the store of spectacular mountain tops available for national parks had diminished. He promoted new kinds of parks, including the representative area national monuments. When Hoover's conservation gift became reality, the "lame duck" national monuments were all natural areas. Agency and departmental policy as well as legal standing made Pipestone an unlikely candidate in this climate. [21]

A different administration meant new and better realities for national park area acquisition. Franklin D. Roosevelt's actions as president transformed the nation and not incidentally the National Park Service and the park system. The New Deal provided capital and labor for nearly every project that the Park Service had planned throughout its 17-year history, as well as for thousands of others about which officials could only dream. In August 1933, the reorganization of the federal bureaucracy by Executive Order 6166 catapulted the Park Service to a place of prominence among federal agencies. As it acquired the park-like holdings of the War Department and the Forest Service, the NPS became a broader-based, more powerful agency with genuine resources at its disposal. During the 1930s, capital development programs were carried out in nearly every park area with potential for visitation. The constituency for the parks grew despite dismal economic times, as many saw the parks as an avenue to their personal economic future as well as places to visit to affirm their heritage. In its rivalries with other agencies, particularly the Forest Service, the Park Service emerged triumphant, with a clear mandate for its mission and more resources to support development than ever before. [22]

With the enormous benefits of federal development programs for depressed local, state, and regional economies, a national park became a coveted prize. During the New Deal, national park areas were prime candidates for federal expenditures. After many years of statehood, Minnesota still lacked a national park area of any kind, something to serve both as a status symbol and a potential windfall in government spending in the state. Local support for a park area was strong, and the lack of large public domain natural areas in Minnesota made Pipestone a good candidate for park status. But questions about its importance remained.

There was some opposition in the agency to pursuing Pipestone as a park area. During the New Deal, the best additions to the system were places where a development program could be easily implemented. Pipestone had some potential, but relatively little in comparison to larger parks. Park Service leaders who were closely tied to New Deal development money recognized the limits of Pipestone. Native Minnesotan Conrad L. Wirth headed the Civilian Conservation Corps programs of the agency. He used Burlew's opposition to voice his own misgivings. Wirth thought Pipestone a poor candidate for his support because he concentrated his development efforts on large, natural parks where he could put thousands of people to work. Harold C. Bryant, who led the educational division of the agency, sided with Wirth and Burlew. [23] Others recognized greater long-term potential.

After the change in agency policy in the early 1930s, "aggregate value" park areas—parks with a combination of values that together equalled national significance—became more common. Pipestone had potential in this regard; Burlew was not sure that the quarries alone were significant enough for inclusion in the park system, but a larger part of the reserved area might have natural and scientific importance as well as historical value. The input of Victor E. Shelford, a famous ecologist at the University of Illinois in Urbana who reported on the importance of the surrounding area, gave NPS officials a strong argument for a park area including a number of different categories of significance. [24]

The land remained under Bureau of Indian Affairs administration, rendering much of the debate over values irrelevant. More important was American Indian sentiment about a public park at Pipestone. Across the northern plains, Native Americans expressed their support for the park. Sioux tribes in South Dakota, including some individual Yankton, and Ojibway in Minnesota were particularly prominent, although the absence of support of the Yankton Tribal Council was conspicuous. The council filed a complaint with Indian affairs, protesting the potential opening of the quarries to all tribes and requesting monetary compensation. Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier, noted for his liberal sentiments, rejected the request. [25]

BIA officials were sympathetic to both the needs of Native Americans and the idea of some permanent resolution of the situation. With prodding from the ever-intrepid Winifred Bartlett, who used her own money to travel to Washington, D. C., to lobby for the park, the Park Service was secured a commitment from BIA that land not essential to the Indian School could be made available for permanent park purposes. [26] Increasingly, the combination of local support, acquiescence of the federal agency responsible for the land, and lack of concerted opposition from Native Americans made a park area possible. The last ingredient necessary was legislative support from the congressional delegation of the State of Minnesota.

Minnesota's elected officials were willing to oblige. With Bureau of Indian Affairs concurrence and encouragement of the Pipestone National Park Association, U.S. Sen. Henrik Shipstead, a Republican from Minnesota, offered a bill for the establishment of a national monument, the first of many such efforts, in May 1934. The 160-acre proposal doubled the size of the area acceptable to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Nor were the boundaries of the park within the reserved area made clear. The confusion surrounding these two issues stalled the bill, and it died in committee. [27]

Despite the failure of the first attempt, momentum in support of the park remained strong. No one expressed opposition to the idea of the park, but only to the provisions of the bill Shipstead offered. In 1935, Shipstead introduced another measure. This one included 110 acres, much closer to the roughly eighty acres to which the Bureau of Indian Affairs previously agreed. The Park Service recognized that it could capitalize on the momentum and began a series of studies. J. W. Balmer of the Indian School prepared a report on the boundaries of the proposed park, Neal A. Butterfield, an NPS landscape architect, evaluated the area, and in August 1935 assistant regional historian of the State Park Division Region VI office Edward A. Hummel reviewed the features of the area. In order to include most of the quarries and the rocks called the Three Maidens, Hummel and Butterfield advocated a larger area than Shipstead included in the second bill. [28]

Despite such support, Shipstead's second bill failed to create the park. The Senate public lands committee reported favorably on the bill without incorporating any of the amendments recommended by Hummel or Butterfield. On June 18, 1936, the Senate passed the bill that the public lands committee endorsed. This posed the classic dilemma for the Park Service. The opportunity to acquire a new park was available, but the area in question was not all the agency needed to fulfill its mission. In the history of the agency, the Park Service had become accustomed to such situations. Agency officials learned to keep expansion plans handy. But at Pipestone, such an eventuality did not materialize. Although the Senate passed the bill, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to act on it. The proposal for Pipestone National Monument died with the end of the 1936 congressional session. [29]

All the necessary ingredients for the creation of the park remained in place. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was willing to give up the land, the Park Service supported the idea, and local support, led by Winifred Bartlett, remained strong. Both Minnesota senators introduced a new bill in January 1937. A Park Service boundary study incorporated the comments of Hummel and Butterfield into the proposal, and when the Senate committee reviewed the information, it concurred with the boundaries proposed by the Park Service. On August 6, the U.S. Senate passed the bill; fifteen days later, the House of Representatives followed. On August 26, 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill, and Pipestone National Monument came into existence.

At the time, this legislative process was uncommon. Most of the first generation of national monuments was selected from the public domain. Before the 1930s, if an area was not in the public domain or given to the government by private owners, it simply was not considered for monument status. By the 1930s, the selection process had become more discriminating. Later national monuments were chosen for reasons other than mere availability. During the 1930s, the historic message each contained became an important consideration. The establishment of Homestead National Monument, near Beatrice, Nebraska, illustrated the change. The first tract perfected under the Homestead Act of 1862, it was also established by congressional legislation. Homestead was selected because of what it symbolized to Americans, not as a result of any threat to its integrity. [30]

The precedent held at Pipestone. Although it did not share the iconographic meaning of Homestead to Americans struggling with the greatest economic catastrophe in their history, Pipestone had considerable significance to a smaller segment of the public. Melding that meaning with the process used to proclaim other areas outside the public domain created a kind of opportunity that the beginning of the Second World War would terminate. Legislative establishment of national monuments became standard in the aftermath of the Jackson Hole National Monument controversy of the 1940s, but in the 1930s, it remained atypical. The establishment of Pipestone was an early example of what became characteristic of the process. [31]

The establishment of Pipestone National Monument by legislation rather than proclamation was not the only way in which the monument was anomalous. In many ways, Pipestone was unique among park areas. Because of a clause allowing Native Americans to again quarry within park boundaries, the monument had a kind of obligation that other park areas did not share. It had a de facto responsibility for the protection and maintenance of historic Native American life. A park reflecting cultural as well as historic themes, it presented a skewed vision of Indian experience. The monument was not surrounded by Native American lands as at park areas such as Navajo National Monument, nor did native people have responsibility for services as they did at places such as Canyon de Chelly. But at both of those parks, the monument and artifacts related protected not locations to modern or historic Native American life, but prehistory. At the inception of Pipestone National Monument, living Native Americans were part of the reason for creating the park, their "historic" activities part of the milieu. One of the most important features the new park contained were Native Americans working the quarries in the old ways.

Yet this presented a tremendous administrative responsibility. Managing the quarries and the people that used them along with the guaranteed flow of visitors, the natural resources of the monument, and relations with the town of Pipestone required skill and dexterity. Without cooperative agreements, resources, and full-time personnel, Pipestone, its supporters in town, and its volunteer staff shouldered a tremendous burden. They faced a complex situation without the tools and experience to properly address it.

Pipestone was also different from other park areas proclaimed and developed in its era. Executive Order 6166, Franklin D. Roosevelt's proclamation that reorganized government bureaucracy in 1933, gave the NPS control of the places representing American history that the federal system administered. Battlefields and other historic military areas were the focus of development during the first few years of the New Deal. Other parks established in the same era included natural areas such as the Everglades National Park in Florida and Capitol Reef National Monument in Utah, historical parks such as Homestead National Monument, and built parks such as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in downtown St. Louis. Pipestone did not fit well into this company. [32] Most other similar areas had been proclaimed a generation before. With the added dimension of the management of continued quarrying, Pipestone had all the appearances of a complicated situation.

In addition, Pipestone faced problems typical of the national monument category. It was established without an operations budget, putting any development plans aside until appropriations could be arranged. The monument lacked a full-time permanent custodian, the designation at the time for people who administered national monuments, leaving it in the hands of interested and zealous volunteers who were not always aware of Park Service rules and standards. Pipestone was in the national monument category, still something of a liability at the end of the 1930s; although New Deal money was spread evenly throughout the system, the standard NPS allocation still funded national park programs more comprehensively than those at national monuments. The regionalization of the Park Service, which began in 1937, also put the monument at a disadvantage. Located in Region II, the Midwest Region which had its offices in Omaha, it was far from most of the other parks that addressed Native American or prehistoric themes. This made the development of the monument a difficult process. At its inception, implementing typical NPS programs at Pipestone remained a long-term objective.

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Last Updated: 21-Aug-2004