Thanks expressed for willingness to remove pipe from sign

The city of Pipestone is exploring options to remove the portion of the Pipestone Municipal Liquor store sign with the pipe on it after concerns were expressed by some Indigenous People in the community about the pipe’s use on the sign. Gabriel Yellowhawk, chair of the Pipestone Human Rights Commission, thanked the council recently for its willingness to remove that part of the sign. File photo

Gabriel Yellowhawk, of Pipestone, thanked the Pipestone City Council during its April 4 meeting for its willingness to remove the pipe from the Pipestone Municipal Liquor store sign.

Yellowhawk, who is chair of the Pipestone Human Rights Commission, said that when he came to Pipestone about three years ago to work at Pipestone National Monument, he noticed the sign right away and found it to be “culturally offensive” to his people and belief system.

“In our culture the pipe is very special to us and sacred,” Yellowhawk said.

He explained that in his belief system, the White Buffalo Calf Woman came to the people around 20 generations ago and told them that the pipe was sacred as was everything about it, including its pieces, what is put into the bowl and the smoke from it. He said even the image of the pipe was sacred.

“In the old days to make the image of the pipe was usually not done,” Yellowhawk said. “It was considered not sacrilegious, but taboo to do so with something very, very sacred. It’s concerning for me just coming to town that the pipe has been almost turned into a logo or a mascot, if you will.”

Yellowhawk said that for a long time the religious beliefs of Indigenous People were basically illegal in the United States, but now things are changing and more are becoming concerned about the topic.

“I just wanted to voice my concern about the image being used in general, but also to say that getting the image taken down from the liquor store particularly is just a very good thing. It makes my heart happy. It makes me proud to be a resident here in Pipestone.”

The city council has not approved removing the sign, but has indicated a willingness to do so and is looking into options.

City Administrator Jeff Jones said he had contacted the company that installed the sign and asked if it was possible to remove the top portion of the sign that has the pipe on it. He was told that would cost more than the $3,225 the company said it would cost to replace the plastic inserts in that part of the sign. Jones said the company is looking into less expensive options and that he has also reached out to a local business for a quote.

The city council tabled discussion on the matter for a second time until more information could be obtained.