The State Indian Museum, opened in 1940, depicts three major themes of California Indian life: Nature, Spirit, and Family. Native peoples lived prosperously for thousands of years in what is now California. All of the exhibits and photographs on display in the museum are presented with respect for those who went before us on this land and continue to live in California communities today.
California Indian cultural items in the museum include traditional baskets, along with some of the smallest in the world, a redwood dugout canoe, ceremonial regalia, beadwork, and hunting & fishing tools-some of which are more than twenty-four hundred years old. There is also an exhibit depicting the life of Ishi, reputedly the last survivor of the Yahi tribe, illustrating how Native culture was powerfully impacted and forever changed when outsiders arrived.
Many Native people have donated photographs of family and friends for viewing in the museum. There is also a wall of photographs devoted to honoring California Elders, and a hands-on area where visitors have the opportunity to utilize Indian tools like the pump drill, used for making holes in shell beads, and the mortar & pestle, used for grinding acorns.