Ten Native American Tourism Experiences for 2021

Looking to explore Native American, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian culture? Consider these distinctive cultural experiences for 2021. #DiscoverNativeAmerica

Malama Hawaii Inspires Mindful Travel (Hawai’i)

Hospitality partners and volunteer organizations across Hawaii are inviting visitors to malama, or take care of, our earth, each other and ourselves. With activities ranging from reforestation and tree planting to self-directed beach cleanups to ocean reef preservation and even creating Hawaiian quilts, Hawaii visitors are encouraged to “give back” to the destination.

By making a positive impact, visitors will not only enjoy a more enriching travel experience, and they might even enjoy a free extra night from participating hotels. www.gohawaii.com/malama

First Americans Museum (Oklahoma)

Scheduled to open Sept. 18, 2021, the new 175,000-square-foot First Americans Museum will celebrate the art, culture and heritage of the  39 tribes that now call Oklahoma home.

Programs will include live public and educational programs; a full-service restaurant and an express café featuring unique Native-inspired cuisine, and a museum store celebrating authentic, hand-made items and products created by celebrated Native American artists.

The sit-down dining experience at the full-service restaurant will serve menu items inspired by authentic Native recipes and tribally specific dishes, and ingredients will be sourced locally and regionally, with a focus on produce and game indigenous to Oklahoma. The menu will also highlight the culinary distinctions between the many tribes of Oklahoma and the cultural history behind each recipe. famok.org

National Native American Veterans Memorial (Washington DC)

In response to a Congressional mandate, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has established the National Native American Veterans Memorial on the museum grounds on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Memorial, which opened to the public on Veterans Day 2020, is the first memorial of its kind to recognize on a national level the distinguished service of Native Americans in every branch of the U.S. military.

An elevated stainless-steel circle balanced on an intricately carved stone drum, the design of the Memorial incorporates multiple elements–water for sacred ceremonies, benches for gathering and reflection, and four lances where veterans, family members, tribal leaders, and others can tie cloths for prayers and healing.

The design concept–Warriors’ Circle of Honor–was created by Harvey Pratt (Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma) and selected from more than 120 submissions. Pratt, a veteran himself, served in Vietnam from 1962 to 1965 as a U.S. Marine in Air Rescue and Security stationed at Da Nang Air Base. americanindian.si.edu

Explore Lakota Ranching Traditions at DX Ranch (South Dakota)

A fourth-generation rancher and enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, Kelsey Ducheneaux raises grass-fed cattle that she sells directly to the public. She and her family also share their Lakota heritage and ranching lifestyle through ranch stays in which guests learn about the work and values of ranch life.

The 7,500-acre ranch includes two bunkhouses attached to a 200-foot-long indoor riding facility, where visitors can get a taste of how tribal members view their resources and meet their needs locally.

Each bunkhouse has a kitchenette and a full refrigerator, but those mostly go unused as guests eat the hearty meals provided in the ranch dining room. A typical stay includes three nights and two full days of activities. nativeamerica.travel/listings/the-dx-ranch

Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Pante Project Re-defines Indigenous Culinary Tourism (New Mexico)

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has reimagined its popular Pueblo Harvest Restaurant into an innovative new teaching experience known as the Indian Pueblo Kitchen.

Under the leadership of Executive Chef Ray Naranjo (Santa Clara, Odawa), the Indian Pueblo Kitchen has unveiled its Pante (Oven) Project, which will create Indigenous food experiences centered around culinary education and exploration, allowing students to learn Indigenous cooking techniques in a collaborative environment.

Although primarily an education program for budding chefs, the Pante Project will also host its share of culinary tourism experiences, including cooking classes, wine pairing dinners, Feast Day experiences and farm-to-fork dining.

While the launch date is contingent on public health mandates, IPCC leadership is hoping for a Spring 2021 opening. In the meantime, customers can participate in monthly events where they order a pre-prepared, Indigenous dinner, pick it up curbside and then join the restaurant online to learn how the meal was prepared. indianpueblo.org/restaurant

Kayaking the Apostle Islands (Wisconsin)

Intrepid adventurers won’t want to miss a wintry exploration of the icy caves along shores of Lake Superior with Rustic Makwa Den. Here, the red cliffs–for which the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa were named–that line the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore are worthy of visiting year-round. It’s the stunning winter-scapes and natural ice formations that provide the most remarkable views.

Tours of the Red Cliff Ice Caves are available by kayak or a more sedate boat ride, but Rustic Den Makwa also offers a variety of year-round, white-knuckle adventures for travelers looking to experience maximum adrenaline.

All tours are accompanied by a Red Cliff guide, who provides insights on the history, culture and heritage of the people that make this area home. rusticmakwaden.com

Tour the Sonoran Desert via Tomcar or Segway (Arizona)

While Arizona is home to some of the most stunning natural landscapes in the world, there’s plenty to see and do for visitors looking beyond the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. Take for example the Green Zebra ATV Tomcar tours, operated by Fort McDowell Adventures, which traverse a private part of the Sonoran Desert, open only to citizens of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.

This off-road adventure includes plenty of stops where guides share the history of the Fort McDowell Yavapai people and other Arizona folklore. After the Tomcar tour, end your day with any one of Fort McDowell Adventures’ other experiences, including horseback riding, Segway tours, rafting, stand-up paddle boarding and more.  www.fortmcdowelladventures.com

Go Wild in Sitka, Alaska

Sitka, Alaska, is perhaps best known as a quick-stop, cruise ship destination, teeming with visitors during the summer season. But this destination, the ancestral home of the Tlingit people, with its scenic vistas, Russian-influenced history, distinctive shops and one-of-a-kind local eateries is worthy of a multi-day stay.

Start your visit with Sitka Tribal Tours’ 3.5-hour Extended Sitka Cultural Tour, which includes a tour of the town, a visit to Sitka National Historic Park (Totem Park), a Tlingit dance performance in a traditional-style Tlingit Clan House, and a visit to the Alaska Raptor Center, which provides medical treatment and rehabilitation for inured bald eagles.

Alternatively, you can “Go Wild” with Sitka Tribal Tours The tour includes a one-hour stop at three of Sitka’s premier destinations. You’ll see wild eagles at the Alaska Raptor Centre, wild bears at Sitka’s Fortress of the Bear and numerous under-the-sea denizens at the Sitka Sound Science Center. All passengers will receive a “I went Wild in Sitka” button. sitkatours.com

Explore America’s Largest Subtropical Wilderness

America’s Everglades–a national park, a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a specially protected area under the Cartagena Treaty–has long been a popular visitor attraction.

A guided tour of the region in the company of a Native guide will shine a new light on the region, not only sharing the ancestral histories of the people who have lived here since time immemorial, but also opening up private regions of the Everglades only accessible by tribal citizens.

Buffalo Tiger Airboat Rides–which range from one-hour private tours to custom programs–explore Miccosukee history, including a stop at an authentic Miccosukee Indian Camp. buffalotigerairboattours

Or explore Seminole culture on a Billie Swamp Safari airboat ride. During the educational and entertaining family-friendly experience, visitors can see fish, snakes, turtles and alligators in four distinct eco-systems carefully preserved by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. billieswamp.com

Olives & Wine Tasting: Explore California’s Rich Agricultural Bounty (California)

Situated along the same latitude as southern Italy and Greece, California’s Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation is located in a prime California wine-growing region. While the Tribe first used vineyards for aesthetics to decorate its golf course, those vines are now producing several award-winning wine varietals.

The temperate climate here also makes this a prime olive growing habitat. In fact, the Tribe grows 3,000 olive trees on 550 acres of Tribal land. These trees are producing some of the finest extra-virgin olive oil in the world.

Today visitors can enjoy wine AND olive oil tasting in the Tribe’s 14,000 square-foot Séka Hills Tasting Room. Guests can watch olive oil production through large observation windows or take a guided tour of the mill, while learning the history of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. nativeamerica.travel/listings/yocha-dehe-wintun-nation

More Experiences

Top Ten Native American Tourism Experiences for 2020 

More Information

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