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Nicollet Marker rededicated at Pipestone National Monument

Bud Johnson of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians blesses the Nicollet Marker in the Ojibwe language at its rededication Saturday. (Leah Ward/The Globe)

PIPESTONE — A small group gathered Saturday at Pipestone National Monument to witness the rededication of the Nicollet Marker.

Explorer Joseph Nicollet and his associates stopped for a week at the Pipestone quarry during the summer of 1838. Some carved their names into the quartzite near Leaping Rock.

In 1925, the Minnesota State Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) financed a commemorative plaque next to the carving site, which became known as the Nicollet Marker.

In preface to Saturday’s rededication, the monument’s archaeologist, Dr. Anne Dowd, conducted a short information session.

“This event is an opportunity for us to rethink history,” she said, “and to examine what is in the records and what is not.”

Monument Superintendent Lauren Blacik echoed Dowd’s invitation.

“Different perspectives are almost always part of our story,” she said.

Blacik added that the original 1925 marker is a celebration of “multicultural collaboration” that resulted from indigenous and non-native people working together to protect the right of Native Americans to quarry for pipestone.

Bud Johnson of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians explained the historical and cultural significance of the area to native peoples, including himself.

The Pipestone quarry has historically been used by 23 northern and northwestern indigenous tribes, who would make annual pilgrimages to collect the stone and carve pipes from it. These pipes were essential for religious observance, as traditionally smoke was a vehicle for prayers.

DAR State Regent Faye Leach related the DAR’s pivotal role in the Nicollet Marker’s establishment and maintenance, including a restoration of the carved initials to a legible condition, which occurred earlier this year.

Dr. Charles Umbanhowar Jr., a professor at St. Olaf College, shared some history of the Nicollet expedition, including its significance for many areas of research. He taught that Nicollet used astronomy to map the area. Members of Nicollet’s party studied the geology and plants they discovered near the Pipestone quarry.

“Nicollet’s records highlight the sacredness of the place,” Umbanhowar said. Nicollet apparently had an emotional connection to the conversations and stories he heard from the native people he met.

After hearing from the scholars and organizers, the group gathered Saturday traversed the hiking trail a short distance to the Nicollet Marker and the nearby carved names. Leach rededicated the original marker, and Johnson invoked a blessing in the Ojibwe language.