Smack dab in the middle of the museum’s section about the prehistoric Native people of Ohio is an out of place information sign about what one could trade beaver pelts for in 1774, these being used in Europe to make felt top hats. A single beaver pelt could get you, among other items, one kettle, twelve awl blades, two chisels, or 144 buttons. Twelve beaver pelts might purchase a gun, though what type is not mentioned. This tidbit of information came from the historical record.
The museum has expanded far beyond its original Reeve Village collection. Artifacts and more contemporary items from Native Americans across the United States can be found here, including those from Alaska. One of the museum’s purposes is to teach school children some basic facts about Native Americans such as whether they farmed, hunted, gathered, and so forth. It’s dry information that those interested can read about elsewhere. Children will nonetheless enjoy the museum because it offers at least one learning game and activities such as crushing corn.
No one knows what any of the prehistoric people who lived in Ohio called themselves, again for lack of written records. So they’ve been given retroactive names. The Hopewell, who inhabited southern Ohio from about 200 b.c. to 500 c.e., were named for the owners of a farm in Ross County, Ohio, where their mounds were first explored. The people who came after them, the Adena, were also mound builders and were originally credited with creating Serpent Mound in Peebles, Ohio, though that has since been disputed.
The Indian Museum of Lake County serves as an excellent introduction to learning about Native Americans. Best of all, while most small museums are open at best a few days a week and only part of the year, you can visit this one seven days a week year round save for holidays and snow days. So if you happen to be in the Mentor area, stop by. It will take no more than an hour to go through.