Kirkland man takes collection to the extreme

Mike Fisher's collection of Native American-themed memorabilia fills his Kirkland 
home. His biggest problem is finding space for the ever-expanding collection.
Mike Fisher's collection of Native American-themed memorabilia fills his Kirkland home. His biggest problem is finding space for the ever-expanding collection.

KIRKLAND – Walking into Mike Fisher's Kirkland home is like stepping into a miniature Native American museum.

Every room is decorated with Native American-themed art and artifacts – rugs, statues, wall hangings, dream catchers, dishes, plates, pictures, knickknacks, clocks. He even has a 1956 Native American-themed coloring book and a 1977 whiskey decanter. A lighted curio stands in one corner, opposite the "teepee table" – two porcelain teepees with back lights that illuminate the figures inside.

"It's pretty amazing," said Charlotte Swanson, who has known Fisher since the second grade.

"He seems to have a little bit of everything," longtime friend Kathy Hall added.

Fisher, who jokes that it takes him a long time to dust, is quick to point out there is a big difference between Native American artifacts and the items in his collection, all of which are replicas and are not authentic.

Though he claims he doesn't have a favorite item, his friends say he has a preference for Indian chiefs, but with a catch.

"He likes them to look real, not Hollywood," Hall said. "I've seen him pass things up because it wasn't done right. A real Indian chief doesn't look like Brad Pitt with a black wig on. You don't live to be 60 years old in the elements and not look wrinkled."

A 1975 graduate of Hiawatha High School, Fisher, known as "Uncle Fish" to local children, began collecting Native American art when he lived in Texas and took a trip to New Mexico. He got more interested, he said, when he dated a full-blooded Chippewa woman in Minnesota and visited her family's home on the reservation, where he was exposed to a lot of artifacts.

"I just started picking up things here and there," he said.

His collection really began to grow a few years ago when he discovered that his great-great-great-grandfather, Chao Lightfeather, was a Seminole chief in central Florida in the 1700s.

"I can't say that one-fourth of me is Seminole, but I do have Seminole blood in me," he said.

Fisher said he searches for treasures in a variety of places, including flea markets, garage sales, auctions, magazines and The Eagles Nest in Oregon, Ill., which claims to be the only area store specializing in Native American gifts and artifacts.

"The (next) closest place you'll find is out west," manager Jamie Bailey said. The store is well-known for its Native American jewelry, he added. "We have a wide range of customers, including people who are traveling through here."

Fisher, who doesn't know any other Native American collectors in the area, said his friends are always on the lookout for things. Hall said it makes him easy to shop for when it comes to holidays or his birthday.

"If I see something really good, I'll pick it up for him," she said.

"He just wants anything with an Indian on it," Swanson laughed. "It can be little or big, it doesn't matter."

The only problem, Fisher said, is that he has to periodically sell some items to make room for new things he keeps in storage.

"I'm sure he has had to pass up things because he doesn't have the room for them," Hall said. "I keep telling him he needs to move to a bigger place."

Fisher, who intends to sell some of his collection in a garage sale Aug. 15-17, said he'll sell anything "if the price is right."

Anyone interested in seeing the collection is welcome to arrange a visit by calling him at 815-522-2370 to make an appointment. He would also like to hear from other Native American collectors.

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