From cradleboards to kachina dolls, there's something for everyone wanting a piece of Native American culture at the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center's gift shop.
They have a practical purpose in Native American culture but are mainly for display in modern homes
Wooden cradleboards ($60-$215), for example, are a popular way for Native American women to tote babies. They secure the baby against the padded board, then strap it to their backs.
Museum shop manager Linda Krieg of Freeburg enjoys scouting for new items.
"This year I'm taking a fifth wheel (trailer) and I'll fill 'er up," said Linda, who plans to attend a Choctaw festival in Mississippi later this summer.
At the festival, Choctaw, Zuni, Hopi, Navajo and other crafters will sell their handiwork. Linda looks for unique items that represent various Native American cultures across the country.
"The only thing I don't have right now is something from the Northwest," she said.
On past buying trips, she has stocked up on customer favorites. Many are true collectors' items.
Among them are kachina dolls ($16-$400) made by the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni. Each represents the spirits of people, plants and animals.
"These are often a child's first doll, but they don't play with them," said Beth Guida, a sales associate at the gift shop.
Each kachina is handcrafted with leather, feathers and hand-beaded jewelry. Some are native warriors dressed like coyotes or birds. Prices vary based on size of dolls and workmanship involved.
Also available are Iroquois smoking pipes ($8-$135) made of wood and decorated with fur, feathers or beads.
"(Native Americans) never waste any part of the animal," said Linda.
Dream catchers, small nets decorated with feathers ($4-$25) are popular with children and adults.
"You hang them on your bedpost. At night, they catch bad dreams and let the good ones pass through," said Linda.
Also available are handwoven Navajo rugs ($195-$375) in a variety of earth tones and bright colors and patterns that represent different Native American peoples and stone carvings ($85 and up).
Linda assures customers all crafts are authentic Native American handiwork.
"Each one has a certificate of authenticity," said Linda, as she picked up a kachina doll with a brown tag. The tag shows crafters pictures and identification numbers.
Linda knows children want to play with what they buy, so she has non-breakable items such as Magic Cubes ($7.95) Bolivian finger puppets ($3.75) and flintknapping kits ($16).
"Magic Cubes are an easier version of the Rubik's cube," said Beth.
Children assemble the cube to form pictures of animals.
The flintnapping kits are for making arrowheads.
She has worked in the high-pressured retail industry, so she appreciates the serenity of the gift shop.
"There's no one here working on commission. There's no pressure to buy," said Linda.
The Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center is on Ramey Drive, just off Old Collinsville Road in Collinsville. Gift shop hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m Wednesday through Sunday. Information: 346-5160.
Museum gift shops
Looking for something unique? Try other metro-east museum gift shops:
Katherine Dunham Museum
Where: 1005 Pennsylvania St., East St. Louis
Hours: 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Mondays-Fridays and noon-4 p.m. Saturdays
What it has: Scented sachets imprinted with Dunham's picture ($10) and books about Dunham's life ($35 each).
Dunham died May 21 at the age of 96. She was a world renowned dancer, choreographer and anthropologist.
Okawville's Schlosser Home
Where: 114, W. Walnut, Okawville
Hours: noon- 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays and Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons by appointment
What it has: Homemade apple butter is $3 per jar and popping corn is $2.50 per jar.
The Schlosser House is a turn-of-the-century home, harness shop and laundry.
St. Clair County Historical Society Museum
Where: 701 E. Washington, Belleville
Hours: 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Mondays- Fridays
What it has: Aerial view maps of Belleville circa 1867 ($2.50); Replicas of Illinois historical documents ($1). These include the formation of Illinois as a territory and Illinois achieving statehood; Belleville historical journals from 1965 to the present ( $3-$6); pen and ink drawings of Belleville's orignal City Hall and Cow Street ($5-$10).
Masoutah Heritage Museum
Where: 306 W. Main St., Mascoutah
Hours: 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Tuesdays and 1-4 p.m. Saturdays.
What it has: Handwoven baskets (most $15 each) by local crafter Mary Richter; postcards of Mascoutah street scenes, including Main Street with the mill and Hagist department store ( 35 cents each or 3 for $1 or 24 for $8); Greeting cards with Mascoutah scenes ( $4); notecards with museum facade (10 for $5).
Where: 107 Elm St, Cahokia
Hours: 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. daily
Information: 332-1782. Volunteers with the nearby Jarrot Mansion supply the souvenirs.What it has: Resource books about French colonial history and explorers Merriweather Lewis and William Clark ($5-$45); medallion of Cahokia's tri-centennial in 1999 ($5); envelopes decorated with drawings of the courthouse with information enclosed ($5).