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Controversy over Park Management
In the 1960s and 1970s the American Indian Movement grew as Native people began to demand equal civil rights and better treatment from the U.S. Government. As a result, there were major changes in the ways that law and the federal government treated Native Americans. Culturally, an interest in traditional Native American ways of life emerged.
Along with their civil rights demands, Native Americans began to call for more control over their sacred sites. Pipestone, traditionally an important sacred site, became a point of interest. Lakota and Dakota people from reservations in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota began to visit Pipestone and were angered by the depictions of Native Americans in National Park Service exhibits. In the exhibits, Native religions and cultures were discussed in the past tense and too much emphasis was placed on white settlers, especially George Catlin, instead of American Indians. In general, the exhibits were framed by a 1950s era white view of Native Americans and reproduced stereotypical and offensive images of Native people.
To many Native people, the presentation of pipes in exhibits could also be offensive. Of the 60 pipes on display, 20 were displayed with stem and bowl joined. To many Lakota and Dakota, the bowl and stem should only be joined in ceremony. Thus, the perpetual display of joined pipes was seen as a particularly egregious show of disrespect towards certain Native peoples.
In general, the exhibits [at the Pipestone National Monument] were framed by a 1950s era white view of Native Americans and reproduced stereotypical and offensive images of Native people.
In the early 1990s, the Park Service agreed to speedily execute a renovation of the exhibits and the visitor center in response to Native input, improving the depictions of Native peoples and cultures.
Updates to the Park Service curation of the memory and management of the site can be found at here.