Museum of the Fur Trade is 3 mi. e. of Chadron at 6321 US 20. The American Fur Co., eager to build its trade in prime buffalo robes, established a trading post on this site in 1837. The post was managed by Jim Bordeaux, a Frenchman from Missouri who was known as “The Bear” by the Indians. Bordeaux operated the post for the fur company until 1849, when he decided to strike out on his own. By 1885 the post had deteriorated and was in ruins.
A meticulous restoration in 1956 re-created the post on its original foundation stones. The museum's extensive collections chronicle 5 centuries of North American fur trading. Its exhibits trace the lives of British, French and Spanish traders, voyageurs, mountain men, buffalo hunters and Native Americans. A diorama depicts a model of the 1850s Fort Pierre.
Among the displays are trade goods (items used by the Indians to make their wares), weapons, textiles, costumes, paints and beads. A particularly impressive collection is a group of firearms made especially to be traded to Indians.
Textiles were a popularly traded item, and the museum's collection features an early blanket made in 1775 and many items created in the 19th century. Beautiful examples of beaded items include colorful and elaborately decorated pieces from the 1800s. Items made of silver became an essential part of a warrior's attire beginning in the mid-18th century, and the museum exhibits arm and wristbands, crosses, nose decorations and brooches.
In addition, the museum has maintained a garden of nearly extinct crops grown by Northern Plains Indians including varieties of corn, squash, watermelon, beans, pumpkins and tobacco.