New exhibits on the Native Peoples of San Joaquin County opens Thursday!

New Native American People's exhibit opens this Thursday at the SJHS!

News from Dave Stuart, Exec Director of the San Joaquin Historical Museum in Micke Grove Regional Park…

Did you know that Native Americans have been living in what is now San Joaquin County for more than 13,000 years? That Native nations carefully cared for local habitats—landscapes that early white explorers mistook for primeval wilderness? That shortly before Europeans arrived, this area had the densest population of Native people in the entire North American continent, north of central Mexico?

Did you know that the current County was home to many nations of Miwok- and Yokuts-speaking people, all with very rich cultures and lifeways? That Indians here put up the greatest resistance to the Spanish-Mexican missions and fought battles with the largest army formed in Spanish-Mexican California?

New exhibits in an expanded Native Peoples Gallery at the San Joaquin County Historical Museum in Micke Grove Regional Park reveal these facts and more about the California Indians of our region. The new exhibits officially open on August 21, 2015, and may be enjoyed during regular Museum hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Native people are such an important part of our County history that we expanded the exhibit space devoted to them and now tell their stories in an up-to-date way,” said David Stuart, Executive Director of the San Joaquin County Historical Society. “We added videos showing traditional basket making, acorn preparation, and deer hunting—we hope folks will associate artifacts displayed in the exhibit cases with those shown in the videos.” Small children will also enjoy a kids-level video of swimming salmon.

The second room of the Native Peoples Gallery has a circular wooden bench. With the push of a button, Museum visitors can sit and listen to three recorded messages. In one recording Glen Villa, Jr. (Northern Miwok/Plains Miwok) tells about the First People and a traditional creation narrative. Another recording is of a traditional Yokuts story, told by Sylvia Ross (Chukchansi Yokuts). The third recording tells of the Indian freedom fighters led by Estanislao, for whom the Stanislaus River and County were named.

In addition to the bench, the new room has a hands-on activity for younger visitors, a cannon barrel like the ones used by the Mexican army that fought against Estanislao and his patriots, and a large mural of an Indian man and woman bedside a lush riverside. “The mural is a photo-mosaic made up of more than 7,000 small photos,” explained Stuart. “The small photos depict important plants, animals, landscapes, and so on—representing the close connections that Native peoples have with their homelands.”

The expanded Native Peoples Gallery was funded by the Nature Education Facilities Program, created by the 2006 Clean Water Bond Act. “The new exhibits work perfectly with the other exhibits in the Erickson Building,” said Stuart. “Visitors can go in chronological order from the Native peoples who first inhabited the area, to an exhibit on the early trappers and the founding of French Camp, the first non-Indian community. Then to a new exhibition on the early American settlers, which was dedicated in February of this year. And on to exhibits on the Gold Rush, a hands-on children’s gallery, and the adjacent Weber Gallery. So the stories of early San Joaquin County are now nicely introduced in the Erickson Building at the Museum.”

The San Joaquin County Historical Society operates the 18-acre Historical Museum in Micke Grove Regional Park. The Society provides a Critter Corral of small farm animals on summer weekends. It conducts programs for school groups, including “Valley Days” and “Pioneer School Day” (in the 1866 Calaveras School). The Museum is fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. For more information see

So, plan a trip out to the always cool and informative San Joaquin Historical Society and Museum in Micke Grove Park, and soak up some insight about our Native American forebears!

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