Understanding the NATIVE Act

A brief history and overview of Public Law 114-221, the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act.

Through the persuasive efforts of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) in partnership with U.S. tribes, tribal organizations and the tourism industry, the United States Senate and House of Representatives voted to enact the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience (NATIVE) Act. The bill, now Public Law 114-221, was signed and approved by the President of the United States on September 23, 2016.

First introduced by Sen. Brian Schatz, D-HI in 2015, the law mandates that federal agencies with travel or tourism functions update their management plans and tourism initiatives to include Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations as well as Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian organizations. Further, it calls for the departments of Commerce and the Interior to name a tribal tourism non-profit agency to facilitate implementation of the law.

On September 18, 2018, at the 20th annual American Indian Tourism Conference, Tara Sweeney, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, will sign an historic Memorandum of Understanding naming AIANTA as the national facilitator to carry out the NATIVE Act. Joining Sweeney at the MOU signing will be Mike Platt, Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Department of Commerce and Camille Ferguson, Executive Director of AIANTA.

In its capacity as NATIVE Act facilitator, AIANTA, the only organization specifically dedicated to advancing Indian Country tourism across the United States, will continue to serve as the voice and resource for tribes and tribal organizations engaged in cultural tourism as it has done for nearly 20 years.

Specifically, AIANTA has adopted a NATIVE Act strategic plan and is negotiating a cooperative agreement with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to obtain FY2018 funding to implement the Act.

Generally, the NATIVE Act mandates and encourages:

  • Enhancement and integration of Native American tourism into federal management planning
  • Increased coordination and collaboration between tribes and Federal agencies’ tourism assets
  • Expanded heritage and cultural tourism opportunities in the U.S.
  • Federal agencies providing funding and technical assistance to Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and Native Hawaiian organizations to spur important infrastructure development, increase tourism capacity, and elevate living standards in Native American communities.

NATIVE Act Purposes

  • to enhance and integrate Native American tourism—
    • to empower Native American communities; and
    • to advance the National Travel and Tourism Strategy;
  • to increase coordination and collaboration between Federal tourism assets to support Native American tourism and bolster recreational travel and tourism;
  • to expand heritage and cultural tourism opportunities in the United States to spur economic development, create jobs, and increase tourism revenues;
  • to enhance and improve self-determination and self-governance capabilities in the Native American community and to promote greater self-sufficiency;
  • to encourage Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and Native Hawaiian organizations to engage more fully in Native American tourism activities to increase visitation to rural and remote areas in the United States that are too difficult to access or are unknown to domestic travelers and international tourists;
  • to provide grants, loans, and technical assistance to Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and Native Hawaiian organizations that will—
    • spur important infrastructure development;
    • increase tourism capacity; and
    • elevate living standards in Native American communities; and
  • to support the development of technologically innovative projects that will incorporate recreational travel and tourism information and data from Federal assets to improve the visitor experience.

Indian Country Tourism Data

  • Tourism is America’s number one service export.
    • According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic and international travelers spent $1036 billion dollars in the U.S. in 2017, creating 8.8 million jobs and generating $165 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues.
    • Domestic travelers spent $880 billion (a 5.2 percent increase over 2016) and international visitors spent $156 billion in the U.S. (roughly the same as 2016).
  • In 2016, approximately 1.96 million overseas travelers visited Indian Country.
    • The increase in travelers to Indian Country accounted for more than 41,000 new U.S. jobs in 2016.
    • The number reflects a 180 percent increase in overseas visitors since 2007 when AIANTA began its international outreach efforts.
  • According to the National Travel and Tourism Office, overseas travelers to Indian Country, a subset of travelers know as Cultural Heritage Travelers, have a far greater impact on the U.S. economy than overseas visitors as a whole.
    • They stay longer— an average of 30 days compared to 18 days for all overseas visitors.
    • They visit more states— an average of 2.4 states compared to 1.5 for all overseas visitors.
    • They visit more destinations— an average of 3.6 cities compared to 2 cities for all overseas visitors.
    • They visit more National Parks, small towns, historical locations, art galleries and museums, fine dining establishments, and cultural, ethnic and heritage sites compared to all overseas visitors.

Fundamental Tourism Principles

  • Tourism contributes to GDP and boosts employment rates in developed and developing countries alike.
    • Tourism creates middle-class jobs and offers people from all backgrounds, skills and education levels a shot at climbing the economic and social ladder.
    • Travel-dependent leisure and hospitality is the largest small-business employer in the United States.
    • From 2010-2017 travel jobs in the United States increased 20 percent compared to 12 percent in the rest of the private sector.
    • In the United States, some 22 percent of workers held their first job in the tourism industry
    • More than half of all Americans employed in travel and tourism jobs earn a middle-class wage or higher.
  • Tourism is a global economic and social force.
    • Tourism’s contributions to development, poverty reduction and economic growth are recognized around the world.
    • Tourism helps foster stable and sustainable economic growth and can be a driver for economic recovery.
    • Tourism has the potential to increase living standards for people from a vast array of nations and cultures in rural and remote areas as well as urban centers.
  • The impact of tourism is not limited to the travel and hospitality industry. Tourism and leisure services encompass a broad range of fields from farming and food production; traditional and modern forms of visual art, drama, music and dance; infrastructure construction and public works; ecosystem management and the preservation of wildlife and plant species; emerging technologies; communications, branding, and sales — and a myriad of additional fields too numerous to list.

Implementing the NATIVE Act will

  • Strengthen and improve self-determination and self-governance capabilities in the Native American community to promote greater self-sufficiency.
  • Enhance the financial means of Native communities to protect cultural resources and preserve natural landscapes.
  • Encourage Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and Native Hawaiian organizations to engage more fully in Native American tourism activities
  • Empower Native Americans to tell their own stories, and define the scope of tourism activities on tribal lands, indigenous homelands, and in Native communities throughout the U.S.
  • Increase coordination and collaboration between federal tourism assets to support Native American tourism and the development of technologically innovative projects that will incorporate recreational travel and tourism information and data from federal agencies.
  • Require federal agencies with tourism functions, programs, and assets to establish meaningful consultation with Native communities concerning tourism opportunities.
  • Grow heritage and cultural tourism opportunities throughout the U.S. by showcasing the diversity and continuing vitality of U.S. indigenous cultures.
  • Promote more authentic and unique visitor experiences that will draw international and domestic travelers alike to rural and remote areas that may not be well known.
  • Enhance the tourism potential of every state and increase U.S. service export revenues.

Sponsors of the NATIVE Act

  • Introduced by: Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)
  • Co-sponsors: Senators John Thune (R-SD), Dean Heller (R-NV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Tom Udall (D-NM), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), John Hoeven (R-ND), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK)
  • In the U.S. House of Representatives, introduced by Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-OK)
  • Co-sponsors: Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV), Don Young (R-AK), Kristi Noem (R-SD), Tom Cole (R-OK), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Mark Amodei (R-NV), Jared Huffman (D-CA).

Supporters of the NATIVE Act (National Organizations)

  • U.S. Travel Association
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Native American Enterprise Initiative (NAEI)
  • American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA)
  • National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)

Supporters of the NATIVE Act (Regional and Statewide Organizations)

  • Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI)
  • Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN)
  • All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG)
  • Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP)
  • Coalition of Large Land Based Tribes (COLT)
  • Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA)
  • Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma (ITC)
  • Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada (ITCN)
  • Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission
  • Native American Tribes of Wisconsin (NATOW)
  • Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association (NaHHA)
  • Southeast Tourism Society (STS)
  • Western States Tourism Policy Council (WSTPC)

Supporters of the NATIVE Act (Tribal and Alaska Village Governments)

  • Chickaloon Native Village of Alaska
  • Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
  • Native Village of Kasaan Alaska
  • Sitka Tribe of Alaska
  • Nez Perce Tribe

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For more information, contact Monica Poling at mpoling@aianta.org or (505) 724-3578.

About AIANTA

For nearly two decades, the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) has served as the national center for providing tourism and recreational travel technical assistance, training and capacity building to American Indian nations. AIANTA is a 501(c)(3) national nonprofit association of Native American tribes and tribal businesses and was incorporated in 2002 to advance Indian Country tourism. AIANTA’s mission is to define, introduce, grow and sustain American Indian and Alaska Native tourism that honors traditions and values.