The Pipestone Pow Wow brings Visitors of All ages

Pow Wow 2 from Jeremy Griffith on Vimeo.

(A photo slideshow with audio interviews with organizers of the Pow Wow, from Jeremy Griffith of American Millennium Online.)

Pipestone Minnesota is sacred ground for all Native American Peoples because it is one of the few places in North America where malleable pipestone is found. The weekend of July 28-29, it was also the site of an annual Pow Wow, organized by the Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipemakers.

Pow Wow organizer Rona Johnston says the Pow Wow has been going on at this site for 14 years, but the tradition itself goes on for centuries. She’s not sure how many different tribes participate every year, but says they come from all over the North American, including Canada.

“We don’t really ask people what their tribal affiliation is when they come to the Pow,” explained Johnston. “I’m sure we’ve had tribes from many, many nations; Cherokee, Ojibwe, Chalktaw, Sakenfox, Patawaname, First Nations, Lakota, Dakota. . . ”

“The Pow is a great way to get people together to expose them to the culture,” Rona said. “People come here to see what the art is like, the dance, the different types of beadwork, things like that. Traditions that have been carried on probably for thousands of years.”

Bud Johnston, Rona’s husband, is knowledgeable about the history of Native American Peoples. He explained how pipestone quarried here was valuable as a trade item.

“This was one of the biggest trade items in North America,” he said. “We’ve found pipestone from here all over these two continents, North America and South America. All of our stuff that was a prized item was traded. They found South Carolina flint on my reservation. So these two items traveled all over this continent. That’s how important this stone was.”

Native Americans of all ages danced at the Pow Wow in brightly colored traditional costumes. Spectators who came to watch the Pow were invited to dance along and participate. Veterans were asked to place flags from every military service of the United States and ringed the circle where the dances took place. An elder blessed the field before the dance to purify it.

It wasn’t all seriousness and tradition. The atmosphere was celebratory and fun. Audience members took time to dance with the dancers, including a traditional “potato dance” where partners balanced a potato between their foreheads. The last couple to retain their potato  without dropping it won a prize.

Pow Wow’s and native dances are not the only ways to preserve tradition. At the Pipestone National Monument, Park Rangers and cultural interpreters work to share Native American history and Culture. The monument’s 75th Anniversary is coming up August 25th.

Pam Tellinghuisen is a pipestone carver and cultural demonstrator at the monument. She teaches pipestone carving and gives demonstrations to curious tourists who visit the site.

“I teach the art of pipestone carving,” she said. “I learned it from my mom, my mom learned it from her mom, so I’m actually a fourth generation pipestone carver. For me it’s a family tradition.”

Pipestone is used in sacred items used in ceremonies, especially the traditional pipestone pipe with it’s distinctive reddish brown stone. Only certified Native Americans can quarry the stone after they’ve submitted the proper permits, Tellinghuisen said. Right now there is a five-year waiting list to get a quarry, and those who are successful in getting a quarry are required to quarry at least twice a year.

While no non-native can quarry the rock, items made from the stone are available for sale at the bookstore, as well as books, music and other items. The Monument’s Interpretive Center has a bookshop, a museum and a theater, and visitors can walk around the grounds on designated paths to see the pipestone quarries for themselves.

Sadly, not all of the traditions begun here have continued. In 2007, the committee that puts on the beloved Song of Hiawatha Pageant, shut its doors for the last time. The popular outdoor play  based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem began showing at that location in 1948. Longfellow wrote the poem in 1855. Committee members said they shuttered the play finally due to diminishing crowds.




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Thoughts on the Aurora Tragedy

Aurora shootings from Jeremy Griffith on Vimeo. creator Jeremy Griffith at Jefferson’s house. Thomas wasn’t home.

Jeremy Griffith, contributor to and creator of, comments on the horrible tragedy in Aurora, Colorado.

Hey gang, Jeremy Griffith here. I contribute to the and am the creator of the American Millennium You can follow me on facebook and twitter.

I want to talk to you for a minute about something very important. A couple of weeks ago a psychopath entered a crowed theater carrying one of these, a variant of the AR-15. He shot a bunch of people, killing a few and injuring many others. He wasn’t a soldier, or a cop, he had no training whatsoever. He was just a lonely insignificant man who was unable to circumvent his own problems and took his anger out on the world. The guns he used didn’t leap off the shelf and kill people, he did it. Knowingly, willingly, and he will eventually pay for his crimes, in this life and the next.

I feel nothing but compassion for the victims of this horrible event in Aurora Colorado. We should embrace them with our love and never forget what happened here. But we should also remember who is responsible and why. Murder is illegal, it always has been, yet our laws have never prevented a sociopath from committing a crime. Some may say, OK Jeremy, I get it. The second amendment, I get it. You can own a gun, but why does anybody need an AR-15 or a tactical shotgun.

Good question. I saw a good cartoon this week on the Internet. It says basically that pistols and revolvers meant to prevent robbery or assault, shotguns are for burglars, and automatic rifles are for those in government who want to take our rights to bear arms away.

Case in point: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, my three favorite things. The BATF has murdered more people than James Holmes, the Aurora Theater gunman, and they did it in sight of the press cameras, and nobody has ever held them to account. About 80 people died at the Branch Dravidian communal church in Waco Texas, and several were killed at Ruby Ridge, including a young boy and a dog.

The people at Ruby Ridge and Waco might be different than us, and have different beliefs, but it’s never been proven in a court room that they were ever guilty of a crime that justified their deaths. In Ruby Ridge, the family of the deceased successfully sued the government for damages. Don’t say it can’t happen here, where our government loses control and starts causing suffering amongst the citizenry, it already has, many times.
In many cases the presence of a well trained legal gun owner has thwarted a crime, but the anti-gun left never brings that up. They want to take away all guns, no matter what, and put in place their gun free utopia.

But that won’t work, because creating anti gun zones doesn’t get rid of guns and killers, it makes innocent people more vulnerable to people who don’t care about the laws. These defenseless zones as they are called have been the sites of the most horrendous killings, like Columbine High School and Virginia Tech. Gun bans on those campuses didn’t slow a gunmen, it encouraged them.

American Vision head Gary DeMar says that worldviews have consequences in the real world. When we teach children that they evolved from single celled organisms from the primordial soup, that they’re just animals like every other animal in the animal kingdom, and there is no meaning or purpose to life, when we banish God from the public square, then we deserve the world we live in that we ourselves created.

DeMar had this conversation with an atheist. The atheist said, “Gary, just because I’m an atheist doesn’t make me a monster.” To which DeMar replied, “But being an atheist doesn’t preclude you from being a monster.”

Life is precious and has meaning, and we are all fearfully and wonderfully made, and ultimately accountable to our creator for our own actions. That should be taught to our kids in our schools, but don’t hold your breath. Instead, teach that to your children at home. Teach them the proper use of these dangerous tools, teach them to hold life as sacred, and teach them to defend their own lives only as a last resort.

We have rights, endowed to us by our creator, rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We cannot protect those rights from those who would take them away, if not for the right to keep and bear arms. We cannot have the First Amendment, without the teeth of the second.

So hold the victims of Aurora in your heart, and pray. And then, take hold of your belief, your God and your guns and do the right thing. God bless you, and God Bless America.

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Fair Week 2012

Fair Week from Jeremy Griffith on Vimeo.

The Griffith clan, Thorin, Alaina, Isaac and Valerie have fun at the fair. Sort of. There was lots of drama, but we got through it. Way to go guys!

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