Make the McKenzie Connection!

U.S. Cavalry and American Indian Museum now open for visitors

Gruning display caseBLUE RIVER: Know how many artifacts are on display at the U.S. Cavalry and American Indian Museum? You’re probably guessing because even the owners are boggled at the thought of trying to inventory them all. “Thousands” will have to suffice.

Displays inside the 5,000 square foot building cover the themes that have made lifetime collectors out of Ron and Coho Miner. Her interpretations of Indian life are on the left and Ron’s military focus is showcased to the right.

Coho, of Blackfoot-Cree heritage, admits she hated history in high school but has been a collector for 30 years. She looks for little things like the details in beadwork or the process of curing hides offer insights into the daily life and spirituality of Native American life.

From tools to clothing, or baskets to the pottery she’s chosen for display cabinets, all have a story to tell about diverse native cultures – from East Coast Indians to the people inhabiting the Pacific Northwest.

A former lecturer for Hostels International, Arizona State Parks and a number of schools, she’s put together an interpretive area that conveys the spirituality of daily life, along with aspects of matriarchal society. “Someone might wander into a village without realizing they were in an organized group,” she notes when explaining a shield hung on a teepee or tripod was showing who that person was and what they traded, “like hanging out your shingle.”

The American Indian portion of the museum reaches back as far as 25,000 years. Ron took a tighter focus, covering the era from the Civil War to 1943 – the history of the U.S. Cavalry. Collecting since he was seven years old, Ron has gathered everything from an 1859 McClellan saddle to Schofield’s top-break revolver a cavalryman could load one handed when mounted. He can also show you examples of reloading tools that began to be issued when a stingy Congress decided it was more economical for troops to manufacture their own target practice ammo.

In the middle of the display room the couple has added a number of locally acquired memorabilia. “We’re trying to develop the story of the local trade routes and who actually did it here on the McKenzie,” Ron says. “There’s a lot of generalities and we’d like to put together some type of truth.” A lot of that activity centered on the obsidian deposits on the Old McKenzie Pass, with trade routes radiating out from that central point.

Other newer items include displays from WWII, including a Japanese carbine bearing gouge marks from the Marine who fought a bayonet battle to a win with it on Iwo Jima. One display case houses the uniform, dog tags and some of the diary notes of local Wayne Gruning, who was a bombardier in the US Army Air Corps 509th Composite Group and flew on the Hiroshima mission.

The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, and by private appointment. It is located at 52281 McKenzie Hwy. near the Living Water Family Fellowship. Private lectures and guided tours can be arranged in advance. For more information call 541-822-1139 or go to [email protected].

Image above: Ron and Coho Miner’s labor of love - the U.S. Cavalry and American Indian Museum in Blue River - will reopen this weekend, with an 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, Thursday through Sunday.


McKenzie River Reflections


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