Bird’s Eye View of a Wildfowl State – The enduring importance of Pipestone

While the historical quarry wall had been the centre of the industry for years, nowadays permits were given to smaller quarries on the flats nearer the visitor centre. Pits arranged in two clear straight lines parallel to the main quarry face had been dug down to the pipestone level. They tended to fill up with water in the wet season and the Parks Service had to arrange for these to be drained whenever someone wished to quarry.

In one or two pits I saw recently active workings; some of the craftspeople who worked in the visitor centre maybe.  Their tools were scattered around the pits.  Here you got a much better picture of the thin seam of the glossy deep pink pipestone.  A few fragments of the rock littered the ground, a stark contrast to the grey stone of the quartzite.  It is a captivating stone; you could see why it was valued for its beauty by many tribes.  It is not just its appearance but the softy smoothness when you held it in your hand is almost magical.  It was relatively easy to carve into any shape but some care had to be taken.  It could break under pressure.   It still meant that the stone could be made into the intricately carved cylinder shapes and drilled with a bowl for the tobacco and a long tube to allow the smoker to drawer.  Only the bowl and far end of the pipe would be made of the stone, the rest, where the smoker would chomp down with his teeth, would be wooden.  The wooden pipes would be regularly replaced but the pipestone parts could be past down generation to generation.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s