Published June 2017  •  Updated July 2022  •  Read Time: 9 minutes
Pipestone is a popular name for red Catlinite found in the Great Plains.  It is used to make Native American peace pipes.  Today most Pipestone is mined by hand in Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota by the Yankton Dakota tribe.  The tribe has been quarrying in the area for at least three hundred years.  While the United States has a long history of breaking treaties with Native American tribes, the story of Pipestone is a surprising example of what happens when those in power uphold their word.  Pipestone is intimately connected to the energy of peace and forgiveness.  It invites us act wisely and pragmatically in the best interest of both the short term and long term.

Pipestone

Pipestone Meaning

Spiritual Healing Properties

Pipestone is a sacred rock intimately connected to the energy of peace. It should not be used lightly for games or by casual seekers who simply want to skim the surface of spiritual energy. This is a stone which asks us to reflect deeply, speak carefully and act wisely. If we can sit with reverence, displaying humility and respect, Pipestone will guide us out of chaos and into serenity. In olden days, it was often used to bring peace between groups of equals. More recently, it has been used to broker peace between groups with very different degrees of power and privilege. Pipestone teaches us that peace is not a surrender nor is it a victory. Real peace requires respect and acknowledgment of what has happened and its ripple affects. Pipestone reminds us that all life is sacred. It asks us to see all people as real living beings, complex and unique, rather than diminishing other people into simplistic stereotypes. We are similarly reminded that animals and plants possess the same vitality as humans and need to be acknowledged as our brothers and sisters. Pipestone evokes the Great Spirit and the Great Mystery which unifies us all as one kin, one family.

Metaphysical Properties Pipestone
Chakra Root, Sacral and Heart
Element Wind
Numerology 2 and 3
Zodiac Sagittarius

Emotional Healing Properties

Pipestone invites us to make peace with those who have injured us. In some cases, this may mean to forgive and reconcile. At other times, it may mean to forgive but keep a healthy distance. In the most serious of cases, it may mean to make peace within our own heart and to give no further energy to the one who has injured us. Pipestone wisely councils us to release any poisonous anger and resentment that has built up in our heart because of past offenses. It shows us how those vengeful energies paralyses our present and future, compounding the original harm. However, Pipestone will not sanctify a false forgiveness, one that is forced because we think we have to or we should. If a injury is unforgiveable to us, Pipestone will not ask us to tolerate a forced peace made in resentment. Instead, it asks us to think deeply about what would realistically allow us to live in balance and joy. If we don’t know how to make peace, Pipestone can help us to set our intense emotions aside and approach the topic logically and pragmatically.

Mental Healing Properties

Pipestone helps us to see through the emotions that cloud our thoughts and make it difficult to find peace. It guides us to think logically and fairly about what happened in the past, how it is affecting the present, and what kind of outcome we wish for the future. Pipestone has a wise and old-soul energy, that can help us see the big picture rather than being consumed by the passions of a small moment. It helps us to get to the root and heart of any conflict and whenever possible to find win-win solutions.

Physical Healing Properties

Pipestone is a highly spiritual stone that can be used to enhance healing prayers and rituals. It is particularly useful if healing smoke or healing herbs are being used, either for smudging or inhaling. If interested in historical or modern Native American healing traditions, it is highly recommended that we read as much as possible and preferably learn directly from the tribe whose rituals we are modeling. If using Pipestone intuitively, it is strongly recommended that we first engage in deep prayer and reflection, rather than moving in haste. It reminds us that “intuition” does not necessarily mean unconscious thinking, it can also mean carefully feeling our way through the patterns until we arrive at a place that we know is real and holy.

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Pipestone Mineralogy

Where does Pipestone come from?

Pipestone is found exclusively in Minnesota, United States. There are closely-related deposits in other parts of the United States, including Arizona, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin, but they each have a slightly different chemical composition.

Mining and Treatments

Pipestone is mined by hand at Pipestone National Monument by members of the Yankton Dakota tribe. The tribe has been quarrying there since at least 1700. In 1857, a treaty was drawn up between the Yankton Dakota and the United States that recognized the tribe’s claim to the area. This was followed by several decades of legal battles between the tribe and the white settlers in the region who wanted to wrestle away control of the quarries. In 1937, the situation was settled in the tribe’s favor when Pipestone National Monument was created to prevent the settlers from quarrying and to allow the tribe to continue. There are approximately 30 active quarries, which provide the sole economic livelihood for at least 50 people. For more information, see the history tab.

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Mineral Family

Pipestone is the popular name for Catlinite. Catlinite is not a mineral, but rather a rock. An easy way to understand the difference is that rocks are like cookies and minerals are ingredients like flour or sugar. Many different minerals are used to create a rock! In the case of Catlinite, it is a rare type of Argillite, a metamorphised mudstone with a very fine-grain. Most mudstones contain Quartz, but Catlinite is one of the few that does not. While most mudstones are black or gray, Catlinite’s mineral composition includes Hematite, whose high iron content gives Pipestone its reddish color.

Pipestone’s energy works well with its family – other sedimentary rocks.  Try it in combination with Chrysanthemum Stone and Septarian Nodule

Pipestone Formation and Crystal Associates

Pipestone is formed by a sedimentary process. In the case of Minnesota Pipestone, the rock was created roughly 1.6 billion years ago, when the area was covered by rivers which deposited a constant layer of sand. A flood came and briefly disrupted everything, leaving behind a layer of clay. Then the normal rivers resumed and buried the clay under more sand. Pressure and time eventually turned both the sand and the clay into rock. Today, that layer of Clay is Pipestone.

Pipestone’s energy works well with its “friends” – crystal associates formed in the same geological environment.  Try it in combination with Pyrite and Quartz

Mineralogy Pipestone
Rock Type Sedimentary – Catlinite (mudstone)
Major Minerals Hematite and Muscovite
Minor Minerals
Color Red, pink, reddish-brown
Texture Clastic
Transparency Opaque
Special Features

History of Pipestone

Pipestone is a name used to describe a soft stone that can be easily carved. While such stones are found in many locations around the world, Pipestone typically refers to Catlinite, a red stone found in Minnesota. Catlinite has been mined by Native American tribes in the region since at least 1200, and perhaps as far back as 900, to make ceremonial pipes for religious and civic ceremonies. When someone mentions, a “Peace Pipe” they are referencing the pipes made from Catlinite which were ritualistically smoked to end conflicts and broker peace agreements.

Various tribes have controlled the pipestone quarries at different eras. But since 1700, the area has been firmly claimed by the Sioux, a group of tribes which includes the Lakota and the Dakota. While the history of the United States and Native Americans is often a tragic tale of broken treaties and abuse, Pipestone is one of the cases in which treaties have been honored. Traditionally, the Pipestone quarries were a neutral ground and tribes would journey there in order to collect the soft stone. The area was largely controlled by the Yankton Dakota because that tribe was settled nearest the quarries, and so their permission was typically asked before another tribe entered the area. The Yankton Dakota’s claim to the land is documented back to 1700. In 1836, George Catlin (1796-1872), an American artist and adventurer, visited the area and sketched the region and its inhabitants. Along the way, he collected a few pieces of Pipestone and eventually brought them back east. When geologists realized that the rock had a unique chemical composition, they named it Catlinite in his honor.

By 1858, white settlers had reached the area and a treaty was written which protected the quarry and gave full legal and economic rights to the native people, stating, “The said Yankton Indians shall be secure in the free and unrestricted use of the red pipestone quarry.” Unsurprisingly, some of the settlers disagreed, attempting to mine or even sell the lands.

When the town of Pipestone was found in 1873, these tensions were exasperated. But the US Infantry sided with the Tribe, and even forcibly removed white squatters from the quarries. Nevertheless, legal battles and illegal mining would continue for decades. Eventually the situation was brought to the attention of the United States Supreme Court, which sided with the Yankton Dakota. The ruling forced the United States government to compensate the Tribe at a cost of over $100,000 (today $1.5 million) for the illegal activities of the settlers. In 1937, Congress made the pipestone quarries and surrounding area into Pipestone National Monument. Only Native Americans with tribal permission from the Yankton Dakota tribe are allowed to mine there. The mining is done in the old way, completely by hand, often with just a single individual hard at work. Some of the pipestone is used to make pipes, but that is not a requirement for the mining.

The Sioux have numerous legends which speak to the cultural importance of Pipestone. One legend, told in 1969 by Lame Deer to Richard Erados, in Winner, South Dakota, was collected for the book American Indian Myths and Legends. The story tells that when the world was freshly made, the water monster Unktehi fought with the people. The Great Spirit was angry with the people and allowed Unktehi to win and bring a huge flood to cover the lands. Everything was under water, except for a hill next to what is now the pipestone quarries. The people tried to climb the hill and escape, but they were all killed by falling rocks and the rising water. Their blood soaked into the ground, staining the pipestone red. The only survivor was a girl, who was saved by a giant eagle, Wanblee Galeshka, who flew her to a safe spot on the highest pinnacle of the Black Hills. The girl married the eagle and became the mother of the Lakota Oyate tribe, the Eagle Nation. She taught her children to honor Pipestone above all other rocks, because it contains the blood of their ancestors.

In 1933, Chief Standing Bear wrote about Pipestone’s significance to the Lakota tribe, in his book Land of the Spotted Eagle. He wrote, “All the meanings of mortal duty, ethics, religious and spiritual conceptions were symbolized in the pipe. It signified brotherhood, peace, and the perfection of Wankan Tanka (the Great Spirit), and to the Lakota people the pipe stood for what the Bible, church, state and flag, all combined, represented to the mind of the white man.”