Day Ten – Traveled from Eagan, Minnesota, to our destination of Sioux Falls, South Dakota – 341 miles. Our sight-seeing expedition for the day was Pipestone National Monument in Pipestone, Minnesota, in the southwest corner of the state.
The first sign we saw as we approached the entrance to the monument said, “Jesus is Lord of Pipestone“. We had a spirited discussion about it before we even entered the Monument sight and realized its possible significance. My nephew started the dialogue. He may not have used the most diplomatic choice of words, but the fact of the matter was that I agreed with him. The sign seemed obnoxiously out of place . . . incongruous . . . intentional.
A few hundred yards away was the main entrance to the Monument.
Pipestone National Monument is a small site – just one square mile. It is a site that has been sacred to the Native American Plains Indians for over 2,000 years or at least as long as Christianity and far longer than Christianity has existed in North America.
It is here that a unique soft red stone, pipestone, which exists between layers of very hard quartzite, has been quarried and used to carve the red pipes used in sacred ceremonies – oral tradition states that the first pipe was used by the Great Spirit when creating the people. It was considered a sacred place of peace available to all tribes. Quarrying is done with great respect for the land and Mother Earth.
As the pioneers migrated West and took away the native lands and moved the Indians to reservations, they also started to mine the sacred stone which, understandably, was sacrilegious to the Native Americans. They managed to secure a treaty preserving the land and its resources for Indian use only; however, their ability to actually access the land was limited by the Bureau of Indian Affairs which often refused to grant approval for the people to leave the reservations to mine the pipestone.
In 1937, Congress finally established Pipestone National Monument and preserved its use for traditional quarrying by Native American Indians only.
The walking path through the Pipestone National Monument takes one along the quarry sites where the pipestone is still mined.
The Indian names for the places are well marked.
One can easily visit the entire Monument in less than 2 hours. You might get a chance to see some Native Americans actually mining the pipestone and others carving the stone into pipes and other objects.
We don’t know if the intent of the large Jesus is Lord of Pipestone sign located so close to the Monument’s entrance was meant to be intentional or hurtful, but it sure seemed like it. These lands and this place, in particular, are one of the most sacred places in the Northern U.S. to the Native American Plains Indians. When hateful people attack sacred places, churches, or temples, we should be outraged. It doesn’t matter if it’s words, graffiti, fire, or bombs.
Placing this sign immediately outside this sacred site just seemed to be plain wrong. It seemed hurtful. It seemed hateful. It did not seem to be Christian or Christ-like. And it did not go unnoticed by the youngest members of our Freaky Family Fun travelers who acknowledged its presumed intent and possibly tarnished their own opinion of what it means to be a Christian.
And that is sad.