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The discussion of the role of pipes and pipestone in modern life continues. On the one hand, Erikson and the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers argue that the pipe has always been a symbol of peace and has historically been used by many tribes. They think that today that inclusivity can and should be extended to people of many nationalities and races. They created a petition in 2005 asking that “no legislation be considered that would change this custom and tradition of making and selling pipes and pipestone which dates back at least 5 generations.” Many elders and medicine men of various tribes support this position that embraces relatively unrestricted use of pipestone. For example, Clyde Bellecourt, co-founder of the American Indian Movement maintains, “The Creator has never given such an order [to restrict pipe use to Natives]. A lot of medicine people have told me not to pay attention.”1
The people with opposing views are much more consolidated, almost entirely within the Lakota and Nakota Sioux. Chief Arvol Looking Horse says of himself and his position, “Even today, they’re saying that Arvol stands alone. If Crazy Horse was alive, I’m sure he’d stand with me.” He and his supporters argue that, though the pipe is a symbol of inter-tribal cooperation, it should remain exclusive of non-Natives to protect the tradition from abuse. He acknowledges that pipestone and pipes have always been traded, but maintains that the pipe tradition needs to be strengthened internally before it can survive in a cultural and economic free-market. Additionally, he points out that under no version of Native tradition is a floor installation an acceptable use of pipestone, because it violates the pipestone's sacred status.
Looking Horse argues that, though the pipe is a symbol of inter-tribal cooperation, it should remain exclusive of non-Natives to protect the tradition from abuse. He acknowledges that pipestone and pipes have always been traded, but maintains that the pipe tradition needs to be strengthened internally before it can survive in a cultural and economic free-market.
The National Park Service has taken the position that current debates are solely intra-Native American issues so there is not a place for the NPS in the debates. The Park Service still regulates quarrying at the Pipestone National Monument, and the controversy continues within the larger American Indian community.
On the Pipestone National Monument land itself, the American Indian Movement has held an annual Sun Dance for over twenty years. The National Park Service has granted special permits to those who attend the Sun Dance. Consequently, the land can once again be used for religious and cultural purposes by a variety of Native people.1
Owen, Suzanne. The Appropriation of Native American Spirituality. London: Continuum, 2008. ↩
Debra Fitzgerald, "The Sundance Begins," Pipestone County Star Online(Pipestone, MN), August 5, 2009, [Page #], accessed August 18, 2015, http://www.pipestonestar.com/Stories/Story.cfm?SID=22570. ↩