Gitchie Manitou State Park

E.P. Wessel, Larchwood, Iowa

Gitchie Manitou State Park derives its name from a 16th century Mohawk Chief. He united and organized five Indian nations on neutral grounds at Pipestone, Minnesota. There the Ceremonial Peace Pipe originated and has since been the source of supply of Peace Pipes. The Peace Pipes are made from stone from the Pipestone Quarries.

Gitchie Manitou's deeds are honored each year in the "Song of Hiawatha Pageant" at Pipestone. The Pageant is based on the narrative poem written by Longfellow in 1855. The site is the Pipestone Quarries whose use is reserved to the Indians by Federal Law.

Gitchie Manitou State Park is bordered on the west by the polluted Big Sioux River and the surface befouled by man has under its ragtop acres of stratas of semi-precious stone, the purest Jasperite yet discovered by man. It is of this celestial substance, according to the Scriptures, of which the pillars of heaven that support the Pearly Gates are made and also the substance upon which the Altars of Heaven rest.

In 1873, S.C. Hyde wrote, "In our great quarries of Quartzite rock (Jasper) lies buried our principal wealth-This is a hard, stratified rock. The State Geologist in 1868 ascribed its formation to the Axoic Age, --the only out-crop in the State, and pronounced it 'absolutely indestructable.' "

This rock formation extends into South Dakota and Minnesota. It is processed for Industrial purposes. Its use is so diversified that the ink we write with, the dishes we eat from, the glass we see through, the car we ride in, the paint that protects our properties, the machinery we farm with, the electrical energy we all depend upon, this rock, or an inferior substitute for it is a factor. Its use is so strategic that during World War 11 it was estimated that if a certain quarry processing this stone were made non-operative it would have crippled 42 percent of all Allied War industries.

Protected by the Ragtop rare plants which are of interest to the Botanist are permitted to grow undisturbed. This supplies some Scientist with a treasure of rare Botanical specimens.

Like an abandoned Chapel in a slum, Gitchie Manitou State Park lies neglected and almost forgotton. Like a tombstone, a Granite marker hidden in the underbrush placed there by the Daughters of the American Revolution marks the spot where the first Post Office in Lyon County was located.

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