Catalina Island has been inhabited for thousands of years. Long before the first Europeans crossed the Atlantic, Pimu, as it was known, hosted generations of islanders, who created an Island based lifestyle and culture.
The island was generous to these original islanders. Fish, shellfish, marine mammals and native plants were their primary diet and they also utilized the island’s geology to create an extensive program of trade with Native Americans on the mainland. While shells and skins were most likely a key trade item, what the island was known for was soapstone. Also known as steatite, soapstone was used extensively both on the island and the mainland to create cooking pots and bowls. Catalina was one of only two known soapstone quarries in Southern California, making functional items created on the island sought after throughout the region.
The Catalina Island Museum collection contains an array of Catalina soapstone artifacts, both functional and decorative. Additional artifacts can be seen at Catalina’s Airport in the Sky, which has a large collection of native soapstone bowls. Visitors to the airport can also take a short hike to a nearby soapstone quarry, where islanders quarried bowls for use and trade with the mainland.