The Coast Miwok Indians were sustainable agriculturalists who occupied Novato, Marshall, Tomales, San Rafael, Petaluma, and Bodega since time immemorial. Village sites have been identified and are continually discovered throughout these areas. The Coast Miwok are known for their skills in basketry, flint knapping, clamshell bead making, cordage making, fishing and tending the local territories landscape.
It is important to remember that the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo people still live within their ancestral territories here in Marin and Sonoma County. They continue to practice and share their traditions among their tribal communities. The Southern Pomo people are from the Sebastopol area and Sonoma County area. In 2000 the Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo tribes were restored to federally recognized status as The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.
We respectfully recognize the Museum of the American Indian is located on Coast Miwok territory.
The Museum of the American Indian shares with the greater community educational programs and exhibitions that deepen understanding and appreciation of Native American cultures. The Museum promotes accuracy, sensitivity, and respect for the heritage and history of our continent’s earliest inhabitants.
Our Vision and Background
Located in Miwok Park, the Museum of the American Indian in Novato, California, is devoted to uplifting and honoring Native American cultures. Since the creation of this museum and educational center over 50 years ago, the Museum of the American Indian has served the general community with our ongoing efforts to collect, conserve, research, exhibit and explain cultural and ethnographic materials of Native America. The Museum’s primary goal is to facilitate learning and dialogues among scholars, students, visitors, the general public and the American Indian communities on both continents.
The Museum serves as an educational center for elementary school children from all over the Bay Area each year. Our school-age educational program fulfills the Social Studies curriculum requirements of the State of California. Other educational programming includes seasonal workshops, lectures, traditional storytelling, film screenings, poetry readings, exhibitions that explore traditional art forms and annual public events such as the Trade Feast.
In the 1960s a housing construction project, an excavation of what is now known as Miwok Park, unearthed masses of archaeological objects related to the original inhabitants of the region, the Coast Miwok people. The Kiwanians, a Novato High School Archaeology Club took the opportunity to conduct to study and excavate the site.In 1967, they lobbied for a site to serve as a repository for local artifacts and remains that had been discovered in the area. The structure of the museum was purchased for $1 and moved from downtown Novato to the site where it is currently located in Miwok Park. Over the years the Museum has evolved beyond the original collection to house a large selection of artifacts and art from all over the Americas. Cultural items in our collection include Diné textiles, Inuit carvings, beadwork from Plains Nations, basketry from tribes all over California, Pacific Northwest Coast masks and Peruvian pottery. Exhibition of these treasures rotates throughout the year to help both adults and children understand and appreciate the diversity and beauty of Native American art and culture.