4:58 p.m.

One Day Apprentice: Lauren Blacik ’09

By John Noltner

For her Carleton comps project, Lauren Blacik ’09 explored the factors that lead to UNESCO World Heritage designation in the United States. Her research took her to several parks, including Pipestone National Monument in southwest Minnesota.

When she interviewed Glen Livermont, then Pipestone’s superintendent, she couldn’t have imagined that, a decade later, she would be in the position herself.

For setting her on this path, she credits Adrienne Falcon ’89, a Carleton staff member who at the time was building the college’s Academic Civic Engagement program, focusing on how classroom learning can be applied in the real world. Blacik recalls Falcon’s thoughtful approach to balancing effective policy with compassionate humanity, recognizing that the two go hand in hand.

With Falcon’s encouragement, Blacik applied for and received a Student Conservation Association internship at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. Her six-month stay led to a two-year position as an interpretive ranger. Blacik later became visitor services manager at Aztec Ruins National Monument, also in New Mexico, where she was responsible for overseeing ranger programs, educational outreach, and community engagement.

After a few years working at the National Park Service’s Midwest office, Blacik took a temporary role as Pipestone superintendent in March 2018, then accepted the position permanently in May.

At roughly 300 acres, Pipestone is a small restored prairie with a large historical footprint. The park was established by legislation in 1937 to preserve the traditional quarrying site for a particularly pure form of red pipestone, used for centuries by many indigenous tribes to make ceremonial pipes.

The park is unique in that it is still an active site, where stone is removed by hand from more than 50 permitted quarries.

“My role is to be a steward,” Blacik says—and to aid in a broader understanding of the park’s history, traditions, and cultures.

Visitors can watch pipe-carving demonstrations at the interpretive center and walk a trail that leads past the active quarries. Each year for the past 28 years, the American Indian Movement has held a Sun Dance in the park in late July.

“So much of my Carleton education was about embracing different ways of seeing the world,” Blacik says, “and working toward greater cultural understanding is a daily part of this job.”

  • 8:57 a.m.Blacik leads a weekly team meeting with park managers who oversee law enforcement, facilities, natural resources, and cultural resources.John Noltner

  • 10:31 a.m.Blacik inspects recently updated interpretive signs near a Sioux quartzite cliff face.John Noltner

  • 10:47 a.m.Cultural resources program manager Anne Dowd and Blacik review artifacts from the park’s collection to include in a redesigned museum exhibit. Here, Blacik measures a cobble axe head so a display case can be crafted.John Noltner

  • 11:41 a.m.Blacik visits with cultural demonstrator Travis Erickson, who has been a carver at the Pipestone visitor center for 18 years. He learned the skill from his mother, Alice, who also demonstrates the craft.John Noltner

  • 12:39 p.m.Former Pipestone superintendent Glen Livermont—who worked with Blacik on her Carleton comps project—stops by to visit.John Noltner

  • 1:06 p.m.Members of the youth conservation corps, an eight-week program for high school students, gather dragonfly larva for testing as part of the dragonfly mercury project, a nationwide initiative to measure mercury levels in the environment.John Noltner

  • 2:15 p.m.Blacik reviews design documents for the museum remodel. “The current exhibits are outdated and don’t capture the significance of this place in the way we’d like them to,” she says. The new exhibits, scheduled to be completed in fall 2019, reflect feedback from 23 tribes formally affiliated with the monument.John Noltner

  • 3:03 p.m.Pipestone superintendent Lauren Blacik ’09John Noltner

  • 4:58 p.m.Blacik and cultural resources program manager Anne Dowd walk toward the Sun Dance ceremony grounds to check on temporary facility needs for the event.John Noltner

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