In the shadow of Sutter’s Fort sits the small but lovely California State Indian Museum. The museum was created in 1940 and tells the story of many of the Indian tribes of California. It highlights more than 60 indigenous groups who lived in our great state long before Mr. Sutter brought his Fort to the area and long before the Gold Rush encouraged waves of people to come out West.
Highlights of the museum are an impressive grouping of baskets, an 18 foot Yurok Redwood Canoe, a large number of beautiful photographs of Indigenous peoples in native outfits during dances or traditional activities, and detailed handmade clothing.
The relationship between California and the local Indian tribes has been a complicated one over time. Disease brought by Europeans, forced movement, slaughter, and destruction of the local environment have changed the face of indigenous people forever. This museum tells the story of California Indian heritage through physical items, clothing, photographs, landscaping, local events, and music and dance. It is a lovely reminder of the pride and history of the first Californians. I only wish the museum were bigger and housed even more beautiful artifacts because I know there is much more to see.