A plea from the Little Feather Indian Center at Pipestone

I just received this email from Chuck Derby of the Little Feather Indian Center at Pipestone, Minnesota, a place devoted to educating people about the Pipestone quarry, the use of pipestone for making pipes, and the proper use of pipes in ceremonies. The is the introduction from the center’s website:

Hau Koda, welcome to the Little Feather Center, we are located in Pipestone, Minnesota, the home of the genuine stone that our sacred Pipestone Pipes are made from. The Center is Dakota owned and operated and the site is full of information on the Dakota culture and other Native American issues. If you continue through this site you will, I hope, learn much about the Pipestone Pipes and the authentic Catlinite stone that they are created from. By the time you leave you should be able to tell the difference between the genuine stone from Pipestone and the look-alike red stone from Jasper, and also know about the various styles of pipes, the sacred pipestone quarries, quarrying and the history of Pipestone. You may also have signed a petition or two!

Below is the message I received today from Chuck Derby:

Hello everyone,

These economic hard times have affected many people with loss of jobs, housing and economic stability. The high price of gas for automobiles last year reduced the number of visitors to this area. It has affected the Little Feather Indian Center as well. We have not been able to keep up with the taxes on the Center and our ceremonial/powwow grounds. If we cannot pay the taxes we will be losing all that we have strived to perpetuate for many years. The loss of the Center where our museum, dedicated to Native American Women, the Sacred Pipe and the true history of this Sacred area will be gone. We did not put a price tag on all that we have done for the people Indian/non-Indian, other than a small amount to compensate for the labor in the quarrying and pipemaking.

We have been trying to help the people for the last 15 years to learn about the true Sacredness of this area and the Sacred Pipe. We honor and respect all religious beliefs and try to do what we can to assist those who choose the Sacred Red Road. Native American culture and especially the Sacred Pipestone area has been my life for many, many years. That will be gone. Gone too will be the pipemaking from the Center, that has been ongoing for the 15 years that we have been at the Center.

The ceremonial/powwow grounds is the site location where many of our ancestors camped while at the Pipestone quarries. The teachings from elders, spiritual leaders, medicine-men and research, have determined that this is the ancient campgrounds. This site has been used by Native people for over 4,000 years and petroglyphs found at the sacred ceremonial site now called the Three Maidens date back at least 4,000 years. Many pieces of worked pipestone have been found on this camp site and they have been worked with stone tools, indicating usage prior to metal tools and white contact. The pipestone specimens were found in a wide spread area, so this rules out that it was a dump site. We found partial pipes and stone that looks like ancient ancestors were in the process of making a pipe.

Along with the recession, I have, as many of you know, been ill and had to have surgery, I have diabetes also and so the medical costs did nothing to help our situation. Gloria is stuck in England right now with no money to return until she sells her Mother’s house, which is today’s market seems impossible. I am on a fixed pension which is just enough to live on and basically keep the Center going, except for the taxes. I have tried to get a job but with the illness and my age (68) I am no longer viable in the workforce. I am at my wit’s end right now.

We need $5,500 in total, and we have asked a Minnesota tribe who have a casino for help in this but haven’t heard back from them. We need the cash by mid April and time is creeping on and we are all starting to really worry. If this cannot be done we will have to take down all of our displays and move them to our homes for safe keeping, we cannot allow those things to be sold and lost as many of them are historical items about the local Dakota people and the area.

So as much as I hate to do it, I am putting out a plea to anyone who wishes to help us keep the Center. Please could you manage to throw a few dollars together and donate it to us, anything will be used to pay the taxes off. We are not a 501c3 never had the money or ability to do all of that, besides we preferred not to have big brother keeping an eye on what we did, we liked to be able to give someone the money for a pair of shoes, or for their gas cost to a funeral, or just some cash to survive. We didn’t keep a record of those things we just did them, so there is no tax deductable donations, they will just be love donations.

Please email me if you are able to help us. Or please send anything you are able to:
PO Box 334, Pipestone, MN 56164

I am thankful for your assistance in this, and you will be in our prayers.

Miukuye Oyasin,

Chuck, along with Alice & Gloria
on behalf of the Little Feather Center

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