Just across the highway from the mega Indian casino in Onamia stands a beautifully, historic, restored gas station from the 1930s. This gas station stood here on the road back to the Twin Cities and was a sure bet for travellers needing a fill before hitting the highway. This station also had an Indian trading post in it. I remember as a boy stopping here and spending my hard-earned allowance for a cheap tomahawk or bow-and-arrow set or a braided belt. The treasures were endless.
One of the positive features of Indian gaming in Minnesota is that a lot of the revenue is pumped back into preserving the Native-American culture in Minnesota. The reservation this culture icon sits on belongs to the Ojibwe. The old filling station and Trading Post have been lovingly restored by the tribe. A filling station from 1930 may not seem like a piece of history, but it is, and my kids were struck at how simple and plain the gas stations of yesteryear were.
Inside, little has changed. The first room you enter is a small museum of the Trading Post with photos and stories. The next room is the long store - the trading post! The Indian Trading Post sells the wide range of products. They have all the novelty items like plastic bow and arrows, tomahawks, and cheesy headdresses for the kids. The quality moves up from there to dream catchers and crafts made out of birch bark to the real thing. They have lovely museum-quality handiwork of beads, porcupine quills, and deerskin. Even if you can't afford these treasures, they are interesting to look at. The folks working at the desk, all members of the tribe, are eager and happy to show you and discuss the items. They can give you details of the artist and the heritage behind each item.
Besides the handwork, the post sells a wide range of books on the Indian culture. They also sell wild rice and Minnetonka moccasins. The wild rice here in Minnesota is harvested by the Ojibwe and sold all over the world. The Trading Post has some of the best prices in Minnesota. Our family loves moccasins, and Minnetonka is the best commercial brand. The Indian Trading Post has the largest selection in Minnesota, and again, the staff is more than happy to help you find the right pair.
This is a bit of Minnesota's past that lives on. My kids had just as much fun shopping the treasures in here as I did when I was a child. This is one stop you can't miss. It's a piece of living history.