Northeast by Southwest

Guest blogger: Brad Sidle, Folwell Performing Arts Magnet School

NE by SW 1
Photo: Brad Sidle

The full moon, rising on the waters of the big lake, leaves a trail glimmering on the waves, and beckons the traveler to venture on a walk with the elders.  Generations have come this way before, and many more will come, to feel at once the immediate connection of soul to Mother Earth, and the recognition of the vast expanse in which we live and move.  We find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.  The pulses of the fresh water ocean and rhythms of the lake tides connect us with a spirit beyond our own existence, and give us space and place to restore the very essence of our lives.  It is for these reasons that an annual retreat to the area of the Grand Portage National Monument was the one constant refuge and recuperative destination for my dearly departed and myself.  It is for these reasons I return in July of 2016 to scatter ashes, set up a memorial, and relinquish that which is dearest to me to the hand of a gracious creator.

NE by SW 2
Photo: Brad Sidle

A piece of me and of my heart will live here forever.

The legacy of sense of place is strongly present in another location, in the southwest corner of the state.  Quarries today still ring with the sounds of traditional means of excavation of stone.  This stone is precious, and while the geology of pipestone is fascinating on its own, tradition tells one of many of the creation stories, how the ancient peoples suffered under days and days of flooding, and started to drown.  A young girl ran to the top of a hill, and prayed.  The rain stopped, a bird visited her and a man emerged from her wings.  The blood of the lost ancestors pooled in the area, coloring the stone, as a marker of the sacredness of the place.  “To be able to come down here and quarry in the womb of Earth Mother,” says Travis Erickson, a tribe member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton, “that’s really special.”  The interpretive center at the Pipestone National Monument features native Indian craft workers, who offer their crafts to be purchased.  Pipes from this stone carry on the tradition of the ancestors and elders, and the stories told by the craftswomen and craftsmen are the most precious parts of a visit.

And so, by visiting these two national treasures, we understand, and better, we also feel, the connection generations of indigenous peoples felt and still feel with this mystical land, and the enduring sense of belonging that has passed from generation to generation.

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