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Building on a Borrowed Past: Place and Identity in Pipestone, Minnesota Paperback – June 15, 2005
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About the Author
Saily J. Southwick is a native of southwestern Minnesota and lives in St. Paul. An independent scholar, she has written on Native American and western history.
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This one is different. Southwick has found an interesting little subject, in which the Euro-American town of Pipestone, Minnesota, builds its own identity on an pipestone quarry that Native Americans actively use as a source of sacred pipestone. That identity led the town to press for the quarries to become a park unit (Pipestone National Monument). Unfortunately for the town's civic leaders, the National Park Service has an identity and mission that are not identical to the town's vision of itself.
Southwick knows the site intimately and tells the story well. As befits a small topic, it's a short book and she remains focused on the story she wants to tell.
The book has its limitations. Southwick emphasizes that the town's vision of the quarries differs from the real Native history of the site. At the same time, she refuses to give voice to the Native stories, thus leaving that part of the story without evidence. This decision reflects her belief that a European American cannot give voice to Native culture or stories without being implicit in colonialism. While I'm sympathetic to her concerns, certainly there are ways to talk about someone else's history in respectful terms, and I wish that she had found a way to do that here.