Friday, August 29, 2008

My Trip To America. Part 2. Pipestone MN, Pipe Keepers Organisation, and Making My Pipe

Journey to Pipestone

Well the synchronicity kicked in when without any further travel plans only just a few vague ideas a new friend Grizzly, a flute maker and tattooist from England asks me as a fellow traveler would, "so where are you headed after this" "Well I said, I was thinking about visiting this guy Bud Jonson of the Keepers in Pipestone Minnesota" "Well were going that way towards the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and we'd be happy to give you a lift" "great" Well just like that along out of the blue a plan starts to fall into place. I try to get my laptop connected to the Internet to make connection by email with Bud, but have all sorts of problems and as time's running out as I'll be leaving with Grizzly and family tomorrow morning I decide to call Bud and leave him a message to return my call. The following day we all, that's Grizzly, his wife, their daughter and best friend Peter Night Eagle whom is a great flute performer from the UK, set out from Eau Claire Wisconsin on interstate 90 heading west into Minnesota, about 500 miles later and 30 miles from where I was to jump out and hitch hike to pipestone my phone rings and it's Bud saying "so you want to come and make a pipe huh, jump out at Brandon and I'll come and pick you up" It was a Monday and Bud had not intended visiting the office where my message was waiting for him but something had made him need to go in hence the call. With this luck I start to think things are out of my hands just like with the CD and Great spirit is firmly pulling the strings. You gotta love syncronicity like that.

Bud Johnson and The Keepers Of The sacred Pipe Organisation (Keepers)

Well bud is a real character and certainly not your average guy or Indian elder and you'll see why more as you read this story. He has a great sense of story telling and could make the most boring story sound so exciting that you would be riveted to you seat waiting to hear how it ends. I might also add he has a freindly and infectious peosonality and quirky humor and also quite a colourful usage of profanity that is used so innocently. Bud is 63 years old and is one of the founders and the current President of the Keepers of the Sacred Pipe organisation in Pipestone Minnesota which is just near the western border of the state.

Big pipe monument out the front of the Keepers Depot, which used to be the old railway station.

Bud off to the office to BS with the staff, the term BSing is their lingo for chatting about stuff, or for Bud telling a detailed 10 minute story without interruptions.

Minnesota, particularly the National Park which is known as one of America's National Monuments, is where the sacred Pipestone has been hand quarried by Native American peoples for countless generations and for many thousands of years and is now a national park being run by Indians working for the national trust department of the Federal and State Governments. Various native quarries have permits and their own quarries, and that is controlled by the Native run department. Bud used to be part of that department before he quit to start the keepers.
Only hand tools and no machinery is allowed to quarry the stone, in keeping in line with old traditional and sacred values in this now heavily mechanised world. There is a huge waiting list for those who want to get a quarry that may become available. Some do from time to time mainly because the holder has become trashed from the hard back breaking work of breaking through 15-20 feet of Quartzite, one or the hardest rocks there is, just to expose a 10 inch layer of Pipestone, also known to scientists as Catlinite, so you see for the $5-7 per pound they get for it wholesale they really have to work for it and not all of the layer of Pipestone is useable for pipes due to fractures and less dense layers. It is often said that the Pipestone sold is for free, you are paying for it to be dug. These people make a living from this work and Bud's Brother In law Travis has a pit pictured down the page. In his mid 40's, Travis told me he's just about had enough. Travis is Lakota and makes pipes from the stone and sells them wholesale to the National monument and to the Pipe keepers shop's. It's when you speak to those who actually dig this stuff that you realise what goes into it and just how hard and laboursome that is.

Keepers of the sacred Pipe Organisation was set up to protect the quarries from being taken over by the certain Lakota Interests, that have attempted to through the courts over the years, As I understand it, they wanted to claim rights to it and the land exclusively. Bud an Ojibwe elder, whose people originate from country within Minnesota, believes that all Indian Tribes and all people should have access to the Pipestone and that the creator put it there all people and it has been that way since it was first discovered there thousands of years ago. Bud is a peaceful Pipestone worrier, standing for what he believes to be right and protecting the rights of other tribal pipe carvers. Bud has fought for many years of his life to see this sacred resource not be Hijacked by any particular greedy interests that would want to own it or restrict it's use to their own people. Now without going too deeply into the messy politics It was very evident to me that there is a huge amount of dissent among mostly all Native American Tribal Nations and it is not too often that different Nations agree on any issue. This lack of unity as a race has prevented them from achieving victories for their rights as a race of people and that certainly has been exploited by the European settlers of America who have long used the divide and conquer technique, and you could say very successfully to claim power. There is also this thing that some Lakota's believe they are the true Indians, why I don't really know? But I have considered it may be because they were the last tribe to fall to the white settlers of North America like in the infamous battle at
wounded knee (well it was actually a cold blooded execution by the American Military of mostly women and children as most worriers had alredy lost thier lives) and others that only took place just 120 years ago in the1890's. I really tried to stay impartial to the conflicts and difference of beliefs, seeing a bigger picture and relating to what has happened around the world and at home, I certainly have compassion and empathy and understanding for The Native American People, the first people of the great lands of America for what has happened as what they have lost or what we all have lost. I also have compassion and empathy for the those who were the plunders who knew no better, for it is only with love and compassion that the world will change.

Apparently There's some bickering and judgments that go on around the differences in pipe smoking ceremonies, between different tribal nations and pipe keepers, and other spiritual practices they perform. I guess really what it all boils down to is tradition, which is a word Bud sometimes has a problem with. "Tradition is only one generation old", he says. Having said all that there are many very spiritual Sioux (being Lakotas, Dakota's or Nakota's, who all belong to the Sioux Nation just have different sounds and pronunciations of the same language) who believe differently and believe that the rigidness, stubbornness and reluctance to accept different ways is not what the Great Spirit wants of them in these times. I was privileged to have met and sweated with a Lakota man Breon Lake who was a student of a very well known spiritual man Galan Arapaho, whom bud describes as a heavy hitter and one of the most spiritual men in the entire Sioux region in the last 100 years. Breon has very strong elk medicine and is a member of the Elk Society of his tribe. He could have been any old Indian running of the tracks but he was inspired by his grand mother to become a spiritual man. Breon works for a company that manufactures large wind turbines that provide much of the power needs to Minnesota and South Dakota and is a Sun Dancer and Pow Wow Dancer and Singer. I liked this guy very much, most of all I loved his friendly nature and humorous spirit. A big guy like a buffalo, his spirit and love for life were just as big. It was certainly a pleasure to be a part of the sweat with him and others like Marty the head dancer in the Keepers Pow Wow this year, many other great folks who I will mention later too like Mark, anyway I have really gotten ahead of myself here.

On the very next day after arriving I started making a
Personal Ceremonial Pipe in the shape of an eagle claw. Many thought I was going in at the deep end but I was confident that that's what I wanted to carve and I knew I would manage the job.

I purchased a large 5 pound bottom layer piece of Pipestone enough to make 2 pipes, from the keepers supply. I am pictured separating it so I can begin my Eagle Claw Pipe.

Initial rough out.

2 days of casual carving later, this stuff is hard but carvable with a knife, blisters now on my carving hand.

3rd day, finer shaping and smooth sanding of pipe bowl.

Fourth day I carved a stem out of Ash, the hardest wood to make a stem out of but well worth the effort. I hand carved that out of a 2 foot and 2 inch diameter branch, very dense wood.

5th day I wet sanded it down to 400 grit then heated it in water ready for the pure bees wax to melt on. I also burnt oiled and waxed the Ash stem.

Polishing in the wax and admiring the new appearance, how exciting, Wow all this hard work coming toward the final fruit, and it feels great. Note in the next picture the light orange outer layer on the edge of the talons and egg.

My Pipe pictured with another Pipe I made from the very precious Canadian Pipestone inlaid with the red Pipestone in a four directions symbol.

I cut my left thumb quite seriously while making this little pipe. The darker stone much harder especially when it has a quartzite vain in it. They were both real beauties and thank goodness it was near finished as I couldn't do much with that hand for at least a few days. The small pipe I gifted to Guillermo Martinez, as a gift of thanks and gratitude for the time I speant with him, whom I was to stay with later. See Part 5
Another angle.

All the Native Americans who checked out this pipe were very impressed, and Bud would make me pull it out and show all his friends. I felt it kind of made it's self just like some of my flutes, they tell you subtly how they want to be. I really loved this experience and found so much healing in just the making of it. I am now using it much more regularly than I used my other pipe. Bud and I smoked it together first and he taught me the customs he uses with the Sacred smoking ritual. I will continue using my other pipe the have different powers and significances to my life and journey.

My history and experience with the pipe.

Well many years ago, maybe 15, I was gifted a lovely Native made T-Bowl Pipe by my Mother to carry and use ceremoniously, I held it for a few years not using it as I knew how powerful it was and I felt I was not worthy of it yet. Eventually that changed and I formed my own ceremonies around bring healing and change in my life calling to the creator and honoring what customs I knew about the Ceremonial Pipe and what I had gathered intuitively. I have since used that pipe in a sacred way maybe 4 times a year to help manifest change and healing when I felt it was needed so I have long been a pipe carrier. I am a firm believer in the power of a pipe to reinforce the prayers. They make you more of a believer. Quite amazing and unexplainable.

How I met Bud.

I had met Bud and Jim Tree, the author of The Way Of The Sacred Pipe, at the Red Blanket Gathering 2007, I was inspired by his passion and friendly nature and also interested in the keepers organisation I acquired some details and thought of a visit on one of my future trips to the states. I will never forget the pipe ceremony attended by 80 people there one night with Jims Thunder Pipe that the bought to Australia to help with the drought.

Well it was kind of by chance that the INAFA Convention being in the neighbouring state It occurred to visit Bud and the Keepers (funny and great how things synchronise)
Well it was a very amazing experience and very uplifting spiritually, and a real honour to share that time with such great and down to earth people.

The National Monument.

Bud very keen to represent his knowledge and understanding of the park and show me around in general, wow what an amazing park, here's a few pics.

Bud giving me a guided tour of the park. Who says buffalo burgers ain't fattening.

This is the Lovers rock, It is said that if a man really wanted to prove he loved a woman he could take her to the Lovers Rock and standing on the cliff about 4 meters away (right) leap to the lovers rock, if he made it he would be a good husband (left) a drop of about 20 meters onto jagged rocks if he wasn't to pull it off, as you stand there below looking up at it you can just picture the scenes that it must have seen over the years. If he didn't make it I'm sure she would acknowledge his courage and nurse him better, neither of them would ever forget such an experience. The distance looks seriously difficult and any poor bastard lover boy would be packing it as he dared the jump all to satisfy his woman. I guess it would weed out the pretenders. The landing pad is just the smallish top to a round boulder so I guess you would have to jump with a hugging land, some serious Olympic worrier stuff.

There is a lovely waterfall and water hole near by , it's just such a magical and beautiful setting.

Face in the cliff, all natural, no evidence of carving and that's super hard quartzite too. This country obviously has many overseeing spirits and this is likely one of them.

And if you thought the other one was a coincidence well then there's this one, seeing them physically, or in photos even, there's no doubt a spirit in these rocks, not just looking like faces but you can feel a presence from them.

An old usused flooded quarry.

The Quartzite rubble from Travis's Pit. It replaces where the pit once was, so it fills back as it moves forward.

Travis's pit again showing water pumped out and work in progress. Travis taking a break.

Indian Pipe carver at the Monument carving on display to the public, he has a starship enterprise carved there in the background.

His works for the day are roughing out some blanks then getting started with the carving.

Hygroglific carvings on Quartzite, thousands of years old depicting bufallo and other symbolic patterns. It is not known how these were done as again Quartzite is second to Diamond in hardness.
More hyrogliphs, these are part of a collection of rocks that the European settlers found when they came to the area now back in the trustful hands of the Native run park, many however of much great significance are still missing according to a local Lakota elder Chuck Derby who runs a great museam in town with so many great artifacts, art, pictures, history and information about the quarries and Pipestone.

Well my visit to Pipestone has just began and now I prepare for the upcomming concert and help setup for the Pow Wow on the weekend, read about that in part 3.

Again thanks for reading, and please, I encourage you to click the link to leave a comment, I love reading your thoughts.



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