Finding Minnesota: Lietzau Taxidermy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The days of the old west and the wild frontier are long gone, but there are still plenty of people intrigued by that era of history.

And a family-run business in western Minnesota is serving as a throwback to the 1800s.

The city of Cosmos has a futuristic feel. Streets are named after planets and galaxies. Avenues are named after constellations.

But in a town that celebrates the future, it is the past that is alive and well.

“I think there has to be a love for it and a willingness to put the time and effort in,” said Chuck Lietzau of Lietzau Taxidermy.

He has been a taxidermist for 60 years. As an avid hunter, he took up the art back in high school. And he knew right away that he loved what he was doing.

“It’s like I’ve told many people, I can’t retire because I’ve never had a job. The memories that go along with it, it’s just remarkable,” Chuck said.

Those memories include animals of all kinds, and endless stories.

“The most tedious thing is getting things just the way you want it before it dries,” said Adam Lietzau, Chuck’s son.

Lietzau Taxidermy (credit: CBS)

Lietzau Taxidermy (credit: CBS)

Adam is starting to get the hang of it himself, working mostly with birds.

“When you’re in the middle of it, sometimes you feel like you could go crazy it’s so tedious,” Adam said.

But all it takes is a second of looking around to realize that there is far more to this family business than taxidermy.

The Lietzaus evolved into more of a frontier trade goods store years ago, purchasing and reselling furs, hides and skins of North American animals.

“And some of these are extremely beautiful — and they aren’t cheap either,” Chuck said.

But serving as a sort of old west trading post in the middle of the Midwest brings with it a certain clientele.

“Most people who are buying from us or are involved with the purchasing or are interested in Native history or 1800 history,” Chuck said.

The Lietzaus have become so well known for what they do that their collection of Native American history has crossed paths with Hollywood. They supplied the leather for the costumes in the 1990 blockbuster movie “Dances With Wolves.”

“It was a real neat experience because we knew quite a few people who were working in the film or were part of the film,” Chuck said.

It is just as important for the Lietzaus to make sure people understand the plight of Native American people. They believe part of their job is to help keep their history alive and well.

“The history that goes on is incredible. When you get a Native person who will share the deeper history of what had taken place and what the animals were used for, it’s a continual learning experience and I think that’s what really is exciting,” Chuck said.

Lietzau Taxidermy is open during the weekdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information on their work and the ways they honor Native American history, you can visit their Facebook page.

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