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National Park chief receives sacred Pipe after quarry visit

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For the first time since 1958, the Pipestone (Minn.) National Monument was visited by a director of the National Park Service.

Robert G. Stanton inspected the interpretive center and the quarry where he accepted an invitation to see first hand how the red pipestone is mined. Stanton descended 15 feet into the pit of Travis Erickson, a member of the Pipestone Dakota Community and a fourth generation pipe-maker. Erickson demonstrated the traditional pick and hammer method of extracting the soft red rock from beneath the many layers of hard Sioux Quartzite that encases it.

Stanton appeared moved as he addressed members of the Dakota community and Park Service employees. "This visit reinforces my belief in the important work the Park Service does everyday. We take a great deal of pride in helping to preserve the cultural richness of this place. I am confident that this area will be preserved for many centuries to come, and will serve to teach the people of this nation the importance of the pipestone quarry."

The first African-American to serve as director in the 81-year history of the National Park Service, Stanton began as a park ranger in 1962 and was coaxed out of retirement by President Clinton who appointed him director last June. He received a pipe from local pipe-maker Swede Crow.