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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Jewelry, moccasins best sellers at Native American Trading Co.

  • “It’s almost a museum. I could label it a museum,” except that the Native American items displayed are for sale, said Mike O’Cheltree about his Native American Trading Co. and Gallery at 115 N. Main St. in Hannibal, Mo.
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  • “It’s almost a museum. I could label it a museum,” except that the Native American items displayed are for sale, said Mike O’Cheltree about his Native American Trading Co. and Gallery at 115 N. Main St. in Hannibal, Mo.
    He spends a lot of time visiting with his customers, explaining “it’s a cultural experience for someone who doesn’t know anything about Native American crafts.
    “I tell people there’s nothing in here you have to have. You come in here because you want to come in here.”
    Tourists - including passengers on the big riverboats that dock in Hannibal – are often surprised to discover his store in Missouri, selling authentic Native American items that are more common in the Southwest.
    Jewelry is among his most popular sellers, along with Minnetonka moccasins. The moccasins include sandals for summer, and they are already displayed on the shelves.
    His jewelry features three tribes, Navaho, Zuni and Hopi.
    O’Cheltree explained they each make a unique type. “The Navaho make silver to fit the stone, and the Zuni make the stone fit the silver.”
    He admires the work of the Hopi, who live near the Grand Canyon. “They do silver overlay work, very beautiful work.”
    His jewelry includes white buffalo turquoise.
    He also sells items from Cherokee, Sioux, Mohawk, Ojibwa, Acoma, Santa Clara, Jemex, Athpascan and more.
    One part of the store is an art exhibit featuring “some of the top artists in the United States,” O’Cheltree said, including Howard Terpining.
     
    Store opened
    in 1992
     
    O’Cheltree and his wife, Ann, first opened their store at 208 North St. in 1992.
    It was later moved to 123 N. Main, and for the past seven years has been at 115 N. Main St., where it is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
    The store’s website is nativeamericantrading.com and the email is mike@nativeamericantrading.com.
    The store fills special orders, O’Cheltree said, and “we buy, sell and trade jewelry. People want to sell old Native American jewelry. We display it. People like to look at it.”
    Some items are not just for display or to wear. He sells flint knives made by Tim Murphy.
    A variety of clothing is available, including shirts decorated by an artist he met in Arizona.
    There are furs, whole hides along with mink and silver fox stoles.
    Page 2 of 3 - O’Cheltree sells flutes made by High Spirits, owned by O’Dell Borg, and explained that anyone can make music on a flute.
    Some flutists perform at the store, such as Mark Holland of St. Charles, who also plays his flute at Hannibal festivals.
    His inventory includes crafts, totem poles, carved ivory pieces, leather works, masks and quillwork baskets. The quillwork is created by the Cherokees and Apaches.
    He sells herbal medicinal teas by Rod Jackson of St. Louis.
    Some of his beadwork and leather is from the Lakota tribe in South Dakota.
    At his first location he displayed the work of the late local artist, Sam Lindquist. “He would give people a tour of the gallery and he would dress up” as a Native American, O’Cheltree said.
    He travels to buy his inventory, reporting “I go predominately to New Mexico. The Pueblo Indians do more arts and crafts than anybody, so you buy from them, because it is readily available. I also buy from Canada, from the Iroquois Confederacy.”
     
    Surprised to learn
    his Native American
    background
     
    “My great-great-grandmother (on his mother’s side) was Choctaw,” O’Cheltree said.
    “I had no idea when I was a kid. She (his mother) said Dad is Scottish and she was from Kentucky.”
    It was years later, after the death of his mother and after he had opened his Native American business, that he learned his Choctaw heritage.
    His stepgrandmother told him and showed him a family album. “She said, ‘This is your great-great-grandmother.’
    “I feel proud,” O’Cheltree said. But he understood why his mother had kept it secret. “My mom was raised on a farm with a different set of standards.”
    He was raised in East St. Louis and enjoyed going to the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site near East St. Louis.
    Before his retirement, he worked as a lineman for Union Electric.
    O’Cheltree’s Native American business experience began by selling jewelry at a children’s clothing store he operated.
    After this store was closed he continued, selling jewelry in a tent at events. His jewelry was from Arizona, where his children lived.
    Then he expanded his inventory, noting, “I went to New Mexico and got jewelry and artifacts.”
    The Trading Co. was opened after his wife said she would like to go into business downtown, he said, and “We had all this Native American inventory.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Opening the store was a better way to conduct business than in a tent, he joked, because “we discovered air conditioning.”
    Hannibal was a good choice for his location, he said. “It has been a success. We claim we are the most complete Native American store in the Midwest.
     See photo gallery for more pictures.
     
     

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