'Help us to remember' the past, the possibility

"Help us to remember the sacredness of this place of peace, guide us, open our hearts and minds so that we might see the beauty in each other and all things that are of your creation."

"Help us to remember the sacredness of this place of peace, guide us, open our hearts and minds so that we might see the beauty in each other and all things that are of your creation."

These words are a portion of a beautiful prayer etched into cement just down the road from Pipestone National Monument. My mom, Pam, and I explored the site over the weekend. We walked away feeling awe and inspiration. Being the Iowa girls that we are, we also left the park feeling compelled to learn more about Minnesota history.

I wasn’t especially interested in local or world history growing up. I learned what I needed to learn to get good grades, but the facts and stories didn’t make a permanent indentation in my heart or mind. I am embarrassed to admit it, but for a long time, I found history boring and irrelevant.

It was a naive perspective, since I now understand that history is just about as interesting and relevant as it gets. But what can I say? I’m a work in progress. Adulthood has revealed that an awareness of the past is immensely helpful in understanding the present and envisioning the future. History is a profound teacher. But, like any classroom setting, student engagement is critical; the teacher is only one part of the equation.

So now I’m trying to make up for lost time by filling in all my knowledge gaps, and let me tell you — there are significant gaps. As I learn and relearn as an adult, this time I want it all to stick! I wish I could find a giant Costco-size jar of brain glue … some kind of substance that would paste facts, maps, and stories permanently into my temporal lobe.


There are so many parts of Pipestone National Monument I want to remember. Especially impactful were the bits of history we learned about various tribes of American Indians. We watched a 22-minute video in the visitor center that outlined the geologic and cultural history of the region and the religious importance of pipes and pipestone. Historically, many different tribes came to the quarry to harvest the red pipestone rock to make their pipes. Pipestone carving is a special art and is still practiced today.

I’d like to glue into my mind…

• The beauty of walking around the quarry at sunrise.

• The deer that bounded across the prairie as we stepped onto the trail.

• The Oracle and Old Stone Face, rock formations with immense spiritual significance.

• The sensation of being suddenly and overwhelmingly compelled to hug a huge oak tree near a waterfall.

• The injustices perpetrated against many tribes of American Indians in Minnesota over the years and the resilience and courage they have exhibited in spite of such cruelties.

I want to remember it all.


There is a legend that the Great Spirit told all those who entered the land around the present-day Pipestone National Monument that it was a sacred place and no weapons could be used or brought upon it. Abiding by this guidance, it is widely believed that even warring tribes would put down their weapons and quarry together for pipestone in peace.

One of history’s greatest strengths is that it reveals what’s possible. Peace is possible. Even among enemies. The more we understand both the triumphs and the mistakes of the past, the more equipped we will be to build a peaceful, just future for all creation.

A morning in Pipestone renewed within me a desire to keep learning about the history of this state and its inhabitants. The opening words of the prayer imprinted just down the road from the park’s entrance remain within me an ongoing refrain.

"Help us to remember."

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