The month of November shines a spotlight on American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, acknowledging the important contributions made by Indigenous people — from being the first to harvest many of the staple foods within the American diet, to mapping out major connections between U.S. cities — it is vital to celebrate cultural traditions and share the stories of American Indian and Alaskan Native communities.
Sherry L. Rupert, CEO of American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, is a leading voice when it comes to advocating travel and tourism as a significant economic resource for tribal nations. Rupert encourages travellers interested in tribal tourism to do their research to find suitable experiences, ideas and inspiration. She commented, “understanding Native American and Alaska Native culture can be complicated. The United States includes 574 federally recognized, sovereign nations, each with its own history, culture, language and customs.”
To showcase the variety of Native American communities and cultures, Visit The USA highlights six diverse Native American travel experiences, including visiting a totem pole park in Alaska and exploring Canyon De Chelly in Arizona, home to the Navajo nation for nearly 5,000 years.
Ketchikan, Alaska, is home to the world’s largest collection of Native American totem poles, many of which are located in two impressive totem pole parks dedicated to the preservation and celebration of this ancient native craftwork. As well as the impressive totem poles, Potlatch Totem Park features a large tribal house flanked by four smaller clan houses, which provide historical dioramas depicting how the local tribes would have lived up until the 19th century. Each house has an intricately carved interior, illustrating the way families in the region would have come together to live in a communal setting. Visitors to the park can enter the carving shed, where resident carvers practice the ancient art of crafting totem poles so that visitors can learn the process and witness the symbolic carvings come to life. www.travelalaska.com
Canyon de Chelly, Arizona
Beyond the awe-inspiring mountain range in the canyon, is a deep and intriguing history of the Navajo Nation who have inhabited Canyon de Chelly for nearly 5,000 years. The local tribes work alongside the National Park Service to maintain the legacy and preserve the future of Canyon de Chelly, which became a national monument in 1931. A tour around the park is a thought-provoking, exciting experience for adults and children alike. Visitors are greeted with breath-taking views of the rugged red rocks, whilst unravelling the history of the Navajo Nation who continue to occupy the canyon. Visiting children have the chance to take on the role of a Junior Ranger, where they can participate in stimulating activities that enable them to understand the park’s important natural and cultural resources. Canyon de Chelly is also showcased in the GoUSA TV Native Voices playlist, for more information follow this link. www.visitarizona.com
Cherokee Heritage Centre, Oklahoma
In the foothills of Oklahoma’s Ozark Mountains lies the 18-hectare Cherokee Heritage Centre, which is dedicated to preserving the cultural artifacts of the Cherokee tribe. Visitors will walk through Diligwa, a living history exhibit depicting a 1710 Cherokee village, here, visitors can experience fascinating craft-making demonstrations, interactive storytelling and early 18th century daily life. The centre also boasts a late 19th-century rural Cherokee village, designed to replicate the village of Adams Corner. At first glance, the replica depicts 1890s community life to be tranquil to the modern eye. Yet, the era was actually a turbulent time following several threatening decades, such as the 1830’s, which is represented through the ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ exhibit in the centre. This trail delves into the tumultuous removal of the Cherokees from their ancestral lands during the decade, which resulted in what is now present-day Oklahoma. Additionally, the centre offers insightful cultural classes that aim to promote traditional Cherokee arts, such as pottery and basketry. www.travelok.com
Blackfeet Indian Reservation, Montana
Perched along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains is the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. This expansive reserve stretches for over 6,000 square kilometers and is home to 10,000 inhabitants, most of whom are descendants of the Blackfeet Tribe. The Tribe’s origin stems from Canada, but after several moves, they were finally relocated to Blackfeet Reservation in 1888. Today, visitors can experience the sweeping vistas of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and even pitch a tent in one of the designated campsites to discover the wonders of great outdoors from their doorstep. Travellers looking for the true Blackfeet Tribe experience can purchase a tribal fishing permit, granting them access to sit back and cast a line into the lakes and mountain streams. www.visitmt.com
The cultural city of Taos, New Mexico
Set in a desert valley amid the crimson Sangre de Cristo Mount is the city of Taos. Founded on the Native American, Spanish and Anglo heritages, Taos offers travellers the opportunity to immerse themselves in this long-standing hybridity of cultures. The most famous monument in Taos is the multistory adobe village Taos Pueblo, which was inhabited by the Taos Native American Tribe. Visitors can book a tour and wander the ancient ruins of Taos Pueblo, imagining a time when this impressive structure was once populated by the Taos Native American Tribe for more than 1,000 years, prior to Christopher Columbus’ arrival to the U.S. The city also houses a vibrant Native American art scene, visitors can amble down the streets discovering traditional artists, whose work takes inspiration from their heritage. To learn more about Taos, visit GoUSA TV’s Native Voices playlist, available through this link. www.newmexico.org
National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C.
Washington D.C. is home to the first national museum in the United States dedicated solely to Native American heritage, highlighting over 12,000 years of history across more than 1,200 indigenous cultures. The museum is home to one of the world’s most expansive collections of American Indian arts, artifacts, photography and media archives, positioning it as an excellent establishment for visitors to discover the diverse history and extensive culture of the Native American tribes. Enclosed in a curved limestone building, the museum’s architecture is designed to represent a rock formation, the museum also regularly hosts virtual and physical cultural festivities, concerts and symposia, which both showcase Native American talent and educate wider audiences. The museum’s Mitsitam Native Foods Café offers indigenous and contemporary cuisine from across the Americas. The National Museum of the American Indian is also featured on GoUSA TV’s Native Voices playlist, available through this link. www.washington.org