Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota: Birthplace of the American Peace Pipe

When we became full-time RVers, my husband and I discovered Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota. We recently revisited this unique place and enjoyed it even more.

Nestled on the north edge of the town of Pipestone, the monument's quarries are considered the birthplace of the Native American peace pipe. For centuries, Plains Indian tribes have quarried the rare red claystone, which is soft enough to carve into pipes for religious and ceremonial purposes.

The monument preserves the sacred mile-long quarry in its natural prairie setting. Only Native Americans may gather claystone here, and only by hand.

Exhibits and a slide program at the Visitor Center explain the site's history. We also watched in fascination as craftspeople demonstrated pipe-making skills handed down for generations. Later, we followed an easy 3/4-mile paved trail around the quarry.

In late August, the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers hold the Share Our Heritage Gathering. This celebration of Native American culture includes the somber Blessing of the Quarries ceremony, opened to the general public only a couple years ago.

Be sure to spend time in Pipestone, too. Its historic district features buildings made from local pink Sioux quartzite, including 20 listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This area inspired poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to write his famous poem The Song of Hiawatha. It's bound to inspire you, too.

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