State Indian Museum
The State Indian Museum displays exhibits illustrating the cultures of the state’s first inhabitants. California’s prehistoric population, one of the largest and most diverse in the Western hemisphere, was made up of over 150 distinct tribal groups who spoke at least sixty-four different languages. California Indian population estimates, before the arrival of the first Europeans, were at least 500,000 people.
California Indian cultural items in the museum include basketry, beadwork, clothing, and exhibits about the ongoing traditions of various California Indian tribes. Descendents of the first Californians, tens of thousands of them, still live in California and still cherish and carry on their unique cultural heritage. Indigenous people have donated many photographs of family, friends, and memorable times for use in the museum. A section of the museum features a hands-on area, where visitors can try their hand at using Indian tools, such as the pump drill, used for making holes in shell beads and other materials; the mortar and pestle and soap root brush, made from the soap root plant, all used for grinding acorns.