Building on a borrowed past: History, place, and identity in Pipestone, Minnesota
AuthorSouthwick, Sally Jo
KeywordsHistory, United States.
AdvisorGarcia, Juan R.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation focuses on Pipestone, Minnesota, which provides an important example of the process of creating and localizing national identity. Founded in 1874, the town derived its name from the nearby pipestone quarries, a traditional excavation site for regional tribes. In the early nineteenth century George Catlin's artistic representations made the area famous and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poetic interpretations of tribal mythology offered a romantic Indian past that appealed to industrializing America. This study proposes that the town's founders accepted the popular perceptions of the quarries' significance to the tribes--particularly the symbol of the "peacepipe" and its source in sacred ground--and actively employed related tribal imagery to create local identity and to promote the town on state and national levels. Emphasis on the quarries as unique and central to America's Indian heritage helped Pipestone attract railroad lines, a federal Indian boarding school in the 1890s, and a national monument in the 1930s to protect the quarries and to attract tourists. This dissertation traces the development of Pipestone from Catlin's early influential images of the quarries and tribes to the first productions of the town's annual "Song of Hiawatha" pageant in the 1940s and 1950s. Since the town's inception its residents continuously adapted their conceptions of the quarries' Indian heritage in order to generate a usable past. This study analyzes the ways in which they used tribal and landscape imagery to encourage town growth, investment, tourism, and the legitimizing presence of the federal government, making Pipestone a nationally-known place and a self-professed "real American" town. Archival sources examined include local and regional newspapers, memoirs, town business, state, and railroad promotional literature, federal institutional documents, state histories, and publications by the county historical society. These sources provide evidence of how the town's residents produced and maintained Pipestone's image and how this local process illustrates Americans' search for historical identity.
Degree ProgramGraduate College