Museum Security Network

Native pipe stolen from museum

Native pipe stolen from museum

A pipe held sacred by American Indians was stolen from a locked enclosure at the Goodhue County History Center.
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle


A pipe held sacred by American Indians was stolen from a locked enclosure at the Goodhue County History Center.
Amos Owen, a Prairie Island Indian Community spiritual leader who died in the 1990s, carved the stolen pipe bowl, shaped as an eagle’s claw.
History Center officials discovered the piece missing earlier this month. Police said it might have been taken months ago.
History Center Director Char Henn called Owen’s work “an asset to the whole community.”
“It’s not a loss to the museum,” she said Wednesday of the artifact, donated to the museum in the 1980s. “It’s a loss to the community.”
Owen’s son, Ray Owen, agreed, but remained optimistic, knowing other lost artifacts have turned up.
“The pipe will reappear,” he said. “That will turn in a circle.”
Police said the pipe was valued at $2,000, but Henn said the figure is virtually arbitrary: “The value can’t be quantified,” she said.
The pipe had been kept in a locked glass enclosure at the museum, placed next to other American Indian pipes. Documentation describing the pipe was also taken, police said.
Henn suspects a visitor came in, picked the lock, and took the bowl — carved from Pipestone, Minn., pipe-rock.
Ray Owen said most effigy pipes were used as medicine or prayer ceremonies in native culture. The eagle claw pipe — carved by his father in the early 1970s — was likely used for prayers of doctoring or healing, he said.
“The pipe is a portable altar,” Ray Owen said.
Henn said talks have already begun about stepping up security at the museum in light of the theft. American Indian artifacts are fetching high value on the black market, she said.
She is confident internal theft — while common at larger museums — is not the culprit in the pipestone theft. Henn said she is disappointed a visitor, perhaps from the area, would steal the artifact.
“The person who did this has cheated the whole area of part of the richness of our culture,” she said. Ray Owen said the theft adds to Prairie Island’s recent cultural loss, which he said included the death of tribal elder Curt Campbell. “I see it as a call to our next generation to remember their culture, their teachings,” Ray Owen said.

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