PIPESTONE, Minn. (AP) — The Pipestone National Monument in southwestern Minnesota said it will stop selling pipes following decades of tribal complaints that the sales desecrate sacred grounds.
Faith Spotted Eagle, who chairs the Ihanktonwan Treaty Steering Committee and is a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe, called the pipestone from which the pipes are carved "the blood of our people," according to a Minnesota Public Radio News report.
She said there have been efforts in the past to eliminate Native American language and culture, including government actions that took away control of the pipestone quarries.
"The paradox is that a place like that which deleted our presence there in the 1892 agreement began to sell pipes. . It was so hypocritical to us and so hard to fathom, with our grieving of the loss of that sacred place," Spotted Eagle said.
Lauren Blacik, superintendent of the Pipestone National Monument, said the monument's leadership has come to understand that carrying a pipe is a deeply personal, cultural and spiritual responsibility.
"It's a complex issue because there are so many different perspectives involved. It was by no means a clear-cut answer," Blacik said.
Native American craftspeople will continue to demonstrate pipestone carving and share their cultural history with visitors to the national monument. The Pipestone Indian Shrine Association, which operates the park's store, said it will open a location downtown where pipes carved from pipestone may be sold.
Spotted Eagle said she wants all pipestone objects, not just pipes, to stop being sold at the monument.
Blacik said it was important for park officials to listen during this process.
"Consulting with tribal nations is a very important part of our management processes, and especially at a place like Pipestone National Monument, where we protect a site that is sacred to so many people and has been for thousands of years," Blacik said.
Spotted Eagle said the decision is still a victory.
"We are thankful to all the people that have passed on that didn't get to witness this," she said. "But I'm sure they know it in the spirit world, so it is a celebration for them."