Family Owned & Operated Since 1946
The mission and scope of the End of The Trail Museum could hardly be explained any better than they were in the words of Marylee Thompson, the main collector and person most responsible for its existence, spoken on the day it opened, on March 10, 1968:
"Dear Friends, Welcome! What you see here in our new Museum is the culmination of a dream that began some 20 years ago when I became interested in the ancient and modern cultures of our "First Americans". These people, to my way of thinking, invented the noun "ingenuity"- my definition being "doing with what you've got"! It is interesting to see what each geographically located groups of peoples did with what was available, be it on land or water. With the "advantages" of modern civilization, it is no longer necessary to hunt food or clothing, or to spend long hours gathering materials and weaving baskets. Sad, but true, much of what you see here is already a lost art. Every year, these treasures become lost to our future generations by fire, flood, neglect and time itself. With this museum, a part of their culture will be preserved - for your children and mine. This is my promise."
The End of the Trail Museum is attached to the north end of the Trees of Mystery gift shop and is one of the largest privately owned world class museums there is. It has been painstakingly assembled over a period of about 40 years by Marylee Thompson, and her heart is in every item on display here. The museum is constantly being upgraded and improved, so even if you were here as recently as a few months ago, there is always new information and more displays.
This is a lovingly maintained museum, and there is no charge for entry. This is our gift to the touring public who have made us what we are. The museum is entirely supported by profits from the Trees of Mystery. Browse on a bit further to sample some of the amazing and interesting crafts and wares of the first Americans.
The museum is organized into six rooms of specific interest. The entrance and gallery is devoted to a collection of baby carriers from all over. Also on display here are many of the animals used by the tribes for food and raw materials for crafts, clothing and shelter. The other five rooms in the museum are organized by geographic area, rather than tribal affiliation. Extensive labelling and informative placards guide you through the detailed and informative exhibits.
This room is dedicated to the local Yurok, Karuk and Tolowa tribes. Many, many fine examples of basketry, bead work and shell work can be found here, as the local peoples were exceptional crafters.
These peoples were masters at ekeing out a living from the austere Southwestern deserts. On display are baskets, tools, beadwork and a modern stone carving. Among the highlights of this display area are the intricate and varied Kachinas.
This room is lined with the cedar that these tribes found so many uses for. In almost every part of their lives, cedar was present as implements, storage boxes, lodges and longhouses, and even whaling boats.
This room is a tribute to those many nomad tribes of the plains, all who made extensive use of the animals they lived with. A common thread throughout is "portability" of there goods, as these tribes were constantly on the move following the game as the game in turn followed the grass. Weight, durability, handiness, and beauty are a few of the attributes found in most of their crafts.
These tribes were located between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas, an area which included the eastern arid borders of California and was known as the Great Basin. Due to the sparseness of this area, most of the waking hours of the inhabitants were spent in the search for food. Acorns, grubs, various insects, edible berries and any small game were all part of the diet. This preoccupation with food gathering is reflected in the many baskets used by these peoples. Baskets were used for everything from storage to hats, from cooking pots to eating bowls. The patterns and weaving are both intricate and varied on the basketry in this extensive collection.
Also in the California and the Great Basin room is a major display of many Edward Sheriff Curtis "Gold Tones" photographs. Edward Sheriff Curtis (1868-1952) spent 30 years traveling and photographing our "First Americans" before they became too exposed to the steadily advancing white culture. Traveling by mule, wagon and horse, Curtis was in turn courageous and courteous in winning the confidence and cooperation of his Indian photography subjects. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt, believing in the historic importance of his work, introduced Curtis to J.P. Morgan who gave $75,000 to further the project. Curtis did us all a great service through his quest. A culture that was quickly vanishing was preserved, in part, for the future through his industrious and brave venture.