Changing liquor store sign is just the action

Removing the image of the pipe from the Pipestone Municipal Liquor Store’s sign is the moral and just action the city council can take [“Thanks expressed for willingness to remove pipe from sign,” www.pipestonestar.com, April 18, 2022]. Gabriel Yellowhawk was more than gracious in thanking the council for its willingness to do so.

From its beginnings, Pipestone has liberally appropriated Indigenous sacred objects and symbolism for marketing and other purposes.

Residents may remember, for instance, when in 1989 the Pipestone High School was called to account for its nickname The Arrows, an action that had followed the Minnesota State Board of Education’s passing a resolution declaring emblems depicting the American Indian to be negative racial stereotypes. Startlingly, the school board claimed that the arrows image had more to do with Robin Hood than with the American Indian, yet on the day in 1955 when the high school band returned victorious from a competition in Chicago, drum majorettes wore feathered headbands, and when I was a high schooler then, the school newspaper was called The Smoke Signal.

Another example of what Yellowhawk calls the pipe’s having been “almost turned into a logo or a mascot” is the tradition, in place long before I graduated in 1959, of presentation of the pipe by graduating senior to junior class member, a tradition variously described as symbolizing “the seniors’ farewell” and “a standard which each class has tried to live up to.” The practice likely was appropriated from its Indigenous cultural use at the Pipestone Indian Boarding School. Adam Fortunate Eagle, a former boarding school student, wrote in his memoir that the presentation of the pipe by graduating ninth graders to new ninth graders held “a strong message for us Indian students to carry on the traditions, culture, and spirituality of our people.”

My thanks go to Yellowhawk for bringing the matter of the pipe into the public consciousness. May the city council follow and do what is right.

Sincerely,

Marilyn May

Hudson, Wis.