The California Indian Heritage Center (CIHC) is a state park of California, United States, preserving and presenting the cultural heritage of the indigenous peoples of California. The site contains four historic buildings as well as many archaeological sites which are currently under excavation by professional archaeologists.
Exhibits include traditional arts and crafts from all over California, as well as historical photographs and newspaper clippings about the various tribes and their battles. There is also a research library available for those interested in pursuing further studies on any of the subjects displayed in the museum. Over 300 ceremonial items are included in the collection, such as:
- grinding stones
One of the most notable features of the museum is a large model of Fort Tejon built entirely out of wood, lath, and plaster, created by the Indians themselves, which depicts how they believed the fort would have looked had it been built according to plans drawn up by European military engineers.
Another unique feature is a section of railroad track laid down in the 1870s, used during the gold rush, which has been restored and is now on display. The museum grounds contain several important archaeological sites that are part of the larger Folsom complex of prehistorical settlements, dating back 10,000 years or more.These include:
- Pescadero Site, which has produced some of the oldest material culture ever found in North America; the Sobrante Site, which has revealed information about prehistoric technology and subsistence practices;
- Colma Site, which has provided evidence documenting the migration of people between the Pacific coast and the interior regions of North America;
- Millingstone Horizon, where stone tools were crafted into shapes not seen today, revealing changes in tool manufacture over time.
California Indian Heritage Center is located in Midtown Sacramento at 2618 45th Street. This 1,068-acre (430ha) parcel of land was given to the state in trust for the use and enjoyment of the Native Americans, who were then living on it, after being donated by its owner in 1940. In 1946, the Legislature established the California Indian Museum within the CIHC. However, when the museum closed in 1956, due to lack of public interest and funding woes, it was moved to the Old Sacramento History Room inside the Capitol Visitor Center.
A new building was constructed in 1960, designed by architect George L. Smith, Jr., with an addition completed in 1962. Today this is known as the Casa de la Guerra (“War House”), serving as a history center for 18 different tribes, including the:
- Pit River
- Tule Creek
Rock Island’s post office officially closed in 1932, although it continued to operate sporadically until 1963. The Rock Island School District No. 25 received permission from the Superintendent of Schools to close the school permanently on June 3, 1958, and did so on July 8, 1958.
All of the children in the district were transferred to other schools. The only thing left standing by September 1966, when the picture was taken, was the elementary school, which was subsequently converted into a private residence. The old gymnasium/auditorium building serves as the home of the non-profit group Friends of the California Indian Heritage Center. Built in 1960, the new facility replaced the previous year’s temporary quarters, which had been destroyed in a fire.
Designed by noted San Francisco Bay Area architect George L. Smith, Jr., the new building reflects the architectural style of the day, blending modernism with regional vernacular. The building consists of three separate units, each dedicated to specific functions:
- the main assembly hall
- the interpretive classroom/laboratory
- the gift shop/reception room.
The building footprint measures 76 x 200 feet (23 x 61m), with a 16 foot (4.9m) high ceiling. On the ground floor level, there are exhibit areas, a bookstore operated by the non-profit Friends of the California Indian Heritage Center, and restrooms facilities.
The first floor houses offices for staff and board members, the director of the museum, and the executive vice president of the Western Rail Corporation, which owns the portion of the former rail bed running through Rock Island. The second floor is dedicated to the museum exhibits, including the war house, classrooms, the conference room, and the curator’s office. Outside, there is a small parking lot and visitor information kiosk.