Meet Our Pipemakers
Ray Redwing is presently serving on the FSST Executive Committee as Trustee IV. He is serving his second four year term. Ray was first elected in August of 2000. Prior to being elected to serve on the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe’s Executive Committee, he worked at the Pipestone National Monument for twenty-two seasons as a pipestone pipe carver.
The job was seasonal and lasted from April 1st to October 31st. Ray was one of five to six “artists and demonstrators” that worked two in a work station and carved pipestone into peace pipes, jewelry, arrow heads and Indian designed artifacts.
Ray worked on small jewelry and pieces at first with Chuck and Butch Derby training him on carving pipestone rock and quarrying pipestone from the quarries by the National Monument. He trained under the Derby’s for two years before he was on his own and began designing and carving pipestone pipes with pipe bowls from 4” to 12” in diameter. He became experienced had made fancy pipe bowls with carved buffalo and eagle heads on the front of the bowl.
Ray stated: “I thought it was fun and stress free to work at the National Monument. I could sell my own products to visitors and tourists that came to buy from us artists and demonstrators. People came from all over the nation by car and bus load. I took special orders for pipes from Native American individuals from other tribes, mainly South Dakota and Minnesota, to make traditional T-pipes.” He went on to say: “I like meeting a lot of people from all over, even Europe, they came to the monument and were full of questions and wanted to know about the Native American Culture. Especially the young women and ladies would ask if I still lived in a tee pee, stuff like that.”
According to Redwing, the Pipestone Monument hired one person to do the beadwork on the pipe stem, usually a woman, and 3-6 demonstrators/artists for the carving of pipestone pipes. The demonstrators were placed two in a work station so the tourists and visitors could observe them working with quarried pipestone. Ray said: “Back then, the Monument used to let us work outside, I liked it, and it was a natural setting and nice to work outside. This attracted the visitors driving up to the parking area and they wanted to see what was going on. We quarried our own pipestone. It is wet when it comes out of the ground and you have to wait for it to be dried off before it can be worked with and carved, otherwise our saws and files get jammed up. It is better to work with dry stone and dry dust.”
“A long time ago, the National Monument hired all Native Americans so the tourists could see them. Now there are a few, two in maintenance and one assistant director. I have not carved since I have been elected, I would like to get back into it, it was relaxing and I want to see if I still have it in me,” stated Ray.
Ray was born and raised in Flandreau, attended grade school and high school at Flandreau Public Schools. He is the second oldest of five children. He joined the US Navy right after high school days and served during the Vietnam War Era. Ray has been a member of the Gordon Weston Indian Veterans Lodge/Honor Guard for the past ten years.
Ray also is one of three of the Tribe’s Cultural Preservation Officers and Repatriation Officers, and a member of the Eastern Dakota Treaty Committee. The Eastern Dakota Treaty Committee has representatives from the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe, Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska, Lower Sioux Community-Morton, Minnesota, Upper Sioux Community-Granite Falls, Minnesota, and Canadian Dakota Tribes from Canada.
Trustee IV Ray Redwing is the Executive Committee Liaison for the Law Enforcement Department, Public Safety Commission and the Elderly Program.
Ray feels that repatriation is on going and the need for it to be done is because of the identified remains and artifacts that are Dakotas that are in museums and burial sites that are being excavated at development sites. Ray stated: “Brandon, South Dakota has a huge site they are building homes on and it is located on burial mounds and sites.”