What’s New in Indian Country Tourism (Winter 2022)
Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center
Santa Ynez Valley, California (Pacific Region)
Construction continues on the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ $32 million museum and cultural center. The 14,000-square-foot Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center will serve as a monument dedicated to the Tribe’s heritage and history, while providing educational opportunities to visitors wanting to learn about the Santa Ynez Chumash people and their culture, according to tribe officials. The project was designed by architect Johnpaul Jones, best known for their design of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. According to the Tribe, the museum should be complete later this year, and is expected to be one of the first LEED-certified tribal museums in the U.S. Media contact: www.santaynezchumash.org/museum
Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza Breaks Ground, Set to Open 2022
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians will open in the coming year its new Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza on 5.8-acres at the corner of E. Tahquitz Canyon Way and S. Indian Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. The site will include a new museum to celebrate the history, culture and modern times of the Tribe. The iconic intersection is home to the Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring, a 12,000+-year-old water source that has been instrumental in shaping the area now known as Palm Springs. The new cultural plaza will include The Spa at Séc-he which honors the tribe’s rich history as the guardian of this healing mineral water. Media contact: Kate Anderson, Director of Public Relations, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, email@example.com
Honolulu to Welcome the PAʻI Arts & Cultural Center (Honolulu< Hawai’i)
The new PAʻI Arts & Cultural Center (PACC) at Ola Ka ‘Ilima, slated to open in 2022, will deliver Native Hawaiian culture in a multipurpose space that includes a 3,000 square foot performing arts and dance studio, a 1,000 square foot PAʻI Arts Cafe which will feature art, tea, coffee and light refreshments; and a 1,000 square foot mezzanine that will also serve as a meeting space. PA‘I is anchored by members of Takamine’s hālau hula (traditional dance school), Pua Ali‘i ‘Ilima. While hula is perceived, by many, to be a form of entertainment for visitors or hobbyists, hula has been instrumental in the preservation and perpetuation of Native Hawaiian language, art and cultural practices. www.paifoundation.org
First Americans Museum Opens in Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Plains Region)
The much-anticipated First Americans Museum opened in September 2021. The 175,000 square foot project tells the story of the 39 tribes in Oklahoma today. The museum features two long-term exhibitions assembled by the only all Native curatorial team in the world. The OKLA HOMMA exhibit shares the collective stories of the 39 Tribal Nations from their ancestral homelands to what is now Oklahoma. The second long-term exhibit is WINIKO: LIFE OF AN OBJECT which features approximately 140 objects on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Media contact: Ginny Underwood, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation Opens New Interpretive Center
New Town, North Dakota (Plains Region)
The Mandan Hidatasa Arikira Nation opened its new MHA Interpretive Center on May 19, 2021. The center, which is dedicated to telling the story of the MHA Nation through living history programs, includes an interactive culture kiosk, an outdoor, 500-seat amphitheater, a 250-seat event room and a classroom for educational programs.
Also on site, a recording studio will welcome elders and other tribal members who can share stories and language, which will be preserved for future generations. The Center also includes a coffee shop (named Black Water in Hidatsa) a new lunch spot and a state-of-the-art kitchen, where traditional meals are prepared. A gift shop features hand-crafted items from purses and totes to men’s, women’s and kids clothing, jewelry, and jams and jellies that are locally made. www.mhanation.com/interpretive-center
Oglala Lakota Living History Museum
Cactus Flats, South Dakota (Plains Region)
This summer, the Oglala Lakota Nation and their partners will open the Oglala Lakota Living History Village, an entry point to the beautiful landscape and the past and present culture and indigenous knowledge of Lakota Country. “Come hear our Lakota voices, our Lakota stories…told by our Lakota people. Learn to see the movement of the land, you’ll learn to understand the movement of the people.” Located at Cactus Flats, Exit 131 on Interstate 90, and then one mile south on South Dakota Highway 240. www.oglalalakotahistoryvillage.com/
Choctaw Nation Celebrates Culture in New Facility
Durant, Oklahoma (Plains Region)
The Choctaw Cultural Center will officially open its doors July 23. Exhibits include a four-part story about the history of the Choctaw tribe from ancestral times (circa 1250) to the present day in Oklahoma. An outdoor area includes a stickball field, living village and a traditional mound. The more than 100,000 square-foot facility houses two exhibit halls, an art gallery, auditorium, children’s area, classrooms, offices, gift shop and café. Press contact: Randy Sachs, Director of Public Relations, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, 580.924.8280 Ext: 5468
Oneida Nation Reveals “Harry Potter” Panels
Green Bay, Wisconsin (Midwest Region)
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Oneida officials came up with the idea of creating “Harry Potter” style digital portraits to promote virtual tourism, but also provide visitors with interactive tours that aren’t face-to-face. The portraits feature tribal citizens acting in roles of their ancestors who played important parts of the two-century history of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin.
Media contact: Michelle Danforth-Anderson, Oneida Nation Director of Tourism and Marketing.
Three Chiefs Cultural Center Rebrands, Reopens
Pablo, Montana (Plains Region)
After closing its doors due to an arson-caused fire in September 2020, the former “The People’s Center” which is owned and operated by the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille Tribes, has re-opened to the public as the Three Chiefs Cultural Center. When fully open, the Center, which showcases the rich cultural of the tribes, whose traditions and culture have been passed down orally from generation to generation, will provide expanded visitor experiences, including cultural activities, traditional arts and crafts, cultural education, native games, and other events reflecting the culture and heritage of the three tribes. Media contact: email@example.com
Cherokee Nation Breaks Ground on Durbin Feeling Language Center
Tahlequah, Oklahoma (Plains Region)
The future Durbin Feeling Language Center, is an historic project that will house all of the Cherokee Nation’s language programs under one roof for the first time. The new language center is named in honor of the late Durbin Feeling, Cherokee Nation’s single-largest contributor to the Cherokee language since Sequoyah. The Durbin Feeling Language Center will house the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program, and the Cherokee Nation translation team, along with other programs and services offered through the Tribe’s language efforts.
Phoenix, Arizona (Southwest Region)
The new Cahokia SocialTech + ArtSpace opened up in Downtown Phoenix in early October. . Co-founded by Eunique Yazzie (Navajo) and Melody Lewis (Hopi/Tewa/Mojave), Cahokia serves as a modern-day rendition of the ancient Cahokia where Indigenous peoples came together to share knowledge and creativity in a central gathering place. The 3,000-square-foot space includes a gallery, exhibit areas, retail and co-working spaces, workshops, markets and events for underrepresented communities.
Redwood Yurok Canoe Tours
Klamath, California (Pacific Region)
California’s Yurok Tribe, whose ancestral home sits alongside the Klamath River and California’s famed Redwood forests will start the new Redwood Canoe Adventure Tour in 2021. Guests can learn about Yurok tribal culture while paddling down the river in a traditional redwood canoe. An experienced Yurok guide teaches guests about the culture of the tribe, the language and the ecosystem of the river. Eventually, the tribe plans for residents to open ancillary businesses, such as gift shops and related boat rides in nearby waterways. According to the Tribe, this is the only location in the world offering redwood canoe tours
Akwesasne Introduces Virtual Airbnb Experiences
Akwesasne, New York (Eastern Region)
In partnership with area artisans, Akwesasne Travel (the destination marketing arm for the Akwesasne Nation), is introducing new virtual experiences on Airbnb. The launch of the experiences is one element in Akwesasne’s business incubator program designed to help nurture artisans into growing their businesses. The experiences include:
Traditional Lacrosse Stick Making
Explore Mohawk Basketry With A Master
Carrie Hill of CHILL Baskets
Cornbread From A Mohawk Perspective
Living Culture with Mohawk Interpretation
Lorna & Mikayla; Native North American Travelling College.
Additionally, the experiences will pave the way for soon-to-be-announced in-person tours on the sovereign territory of Akwesasne. For more information visit akwesasne.travel
New Video Highlights Native-Caught Fresh Salmon (Pacific Region)
The Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), Oregon State University Extension Service and Oregon Sea Grant have released a new video showcasing how travelers can purchase fresh salmon from tribal vendors as the fish migrate upriver. The eight-minute video includes tips such as when each fish is in season, showing where fish are sold and more advice on purchasing, storing and preparing the fish.
“Tribal fishing at these sites continue[s] to be essential to the tribes’ sovereignty, culture and economy,” said Buck Jones, salmon marketing specialist with CRITFC. “Over-the-bank sales help tribal fishers support their families and make it possible to continue their traditional livelihood.” View more information at CRITFC’s Buying Salmon from Tribal Fishers guide.
Native Providers Team Up with Major League Sports
Native companies are finding success in forging new partnerships with major league sports teams. Last year, the Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) announced a new partnership with NHL team, the Seattle Kraken. BBNC, BBRSDA and the corporation’s Bristol Wild Seafood Company (BWSC) began operating the Bristol Bay Wild Market inside the Seattle Kraken’s Climate Pledge Arena. “The respect given to the environment and treatment of fish results in a better-quality product and will help our customers understand what sustainable fishing means for future generations,” said Everette Anderson, president of BBWM. www.bbnc.net/kraken www.bristolwildseafood.com
Up in far northern California, the Yurok Tribe’s Mad River Brewery is also making history as the first-ever Native brewed
beer to be sold in a major league ballpark. Come spring, San Francisco Giants fans will be able to enjoy a taste of Humboldt at San Francisco’s Oracle Park. www.madriverbrewing.com
Acclaimed Chef Nephi Craig Opens Café Gozhóó in Arizona
Chef Nephi Craig, featured in 2021’s breakout film Gather, has opened Café Gozhóó on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Northeastern Arizona. The café, which operates in tandem with the Rainbow Treatment Center, integrates the tastes and flavors of Apache foodways while activating ancestral knowledge in learning and service. Specialties include Nada’Ban, Squash Stew, Red Chili, Acorn Stew, frequent specials, espresso-based drinks and Cowboy Coffee, etc.
The food, retail and fueling outlet is located on the north end of Whiteriver, Arizona, and was designed for Apache community members with focused lighting, an open kitchen and a warm atmosphere. The facility promotes recovery and serves as a community-based training center and multi-purpose hospitality facility for individuals who have participated in therapeutic programming with the Rainbow Treatment Center’s Working 2 Wellness and Scholarship programs. Café Gozhóó will create jobs, promote professional development and equip individuals with job skills while helping to revitalize Western Apache food systems. cafegozhoo.com
Sioux Chef Sean Sherman Shining a Light on Indigenous Cuisine
Owamni Restaurant has officially opened its doors on the Minneapolis riverfront. After being head chef at a European restaurant in Minneapolis, Sherman realized he could list the recipes of 100s of European and Italian dishes off the top of his head, but fewer than ten Lakota recipes. This sparked the beginning of a number of projects for Sherman to better understand the food of his ancestors, including Owamni Restaurant.
Owamni features pre-colonial foods, most of which, made without dairy, wheat flour, can sugar, pork, chicken or beef. Instead his recipes call upon corn, beans and squash and other ingredients sourced from local and Indigenous producers where possible. And to represent its people and culture even more, Owamni has also translated its entire website and menu to the Dakota language.
420 1st Street S., Minneapolis, Minnesota
Café Ohlone Opening at UC Berkeley
Berkeley, California (Pacific Region)
Café Ohlone will be reopening this spring in a new location on the UC Berkeley campus.
Diners will experience a celebration of Ohlone culture, including Chochenyo language — the inner East Bay’s first language — proudly displayed on the menus. Functional and beautiful Ohlone baskets will rest on shelves, tule mats will be placed in baskets for people to sit on, and reclaimed redwood tables will play homage to the old villages in the redwoods of the Oakland hills and Carmel Valley. This internationally acclaimed and dynamic Ohlone-run space reflects the co-founders’ Indigenous identity.
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) Secures Funding to Launch Kootéeyaa Deiyí (Totem Pole Trail)
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has secured a grant to commission ten totem poles that will comprise part of Kootéeyaa Deiyí (Totem Pole Trail) along the downtown Juneau waterfront.
The $2.9 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will allow SHI to hire Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian master artists in Juneau and villages across Southeast Alaska to carve the poles, which will be raised in 2023.
“Our traditional poles historically dominated the shorelines of our ancestral homelands and told the world who we were,” said SHI President Rosita Worl. “It’s fitting that our totems will be one of the first things people see while sailing into Juneau.” SHI’s ultimate goal is to commission 30 poles and raise them along the waterfront. www.sealaskaheritage.org/node/1525
Wind River Reservation Self-Guided Driving Tours (Fort Washakie, Wyoming)
Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming (Plains Region)
For visitors to Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Parks, there are two easy ways to tour the Wind River Reservation in your car. TravelStorys Wind River Reservation is a self-guided mobile audio driving tour that explores the home of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes. Fort Washakie High School students have successfully created and completed the Shoshone part of the tour which gives a fascinating introduction to the historical and cultural lands of the Eastern Shoshone people. The tour of the Northern Arapaho people and their area is on track to be completed by the end of this year for TravelStorys.
If you’d rather ditch the mobile device, stop by the visitors council, any local museum or chamber of commerce to pick up a map of another easy, self-guided driving tour. This map tour offers a full day (70-mile) or half-day (30-mile) trip that highlights key sites such as the gravesite of Sacajawea, the revered Shoshone guide who guided the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Both tours were made possible with the support of the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund and Wind River Visitors Council.
San Manuel Celebrates Grand Opening of Yaamava’ Luxury Resort
Yaamava’ Resort & Casino at San Manuel (formerly San Manuel Casino)–the highly anticipated luxury resort owned and operated by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians–celebrated its grand opening on Monday, December 13, 2021. Located in Highland, California, just 60 minutes from Los Angeles, the 432-room hotel has been touted as one of the “Most-Anticipated Hotel Openings of 2021” by Forbes Travel Guide.
“As we watched Yaamava’ take shape over these last three years, the San Manuel community recognized we were building something special”, said San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Chairman, Ken Ramirez. “We can’t wait for our valued casino guests and new visitors to experience all that Yaamava’ has to offer.”
Designed as the ultimate Southern California get-away, Yaamava’ offers an expansive pool deck where guests can relax in their own personal lounger or in one of the seven private cabanas. A lavish full-service spa provides a variety of transformative treatments and exquisite products. Expanded dining options and convenient 24-hour in-room dining are also available. The top floor of the hotel tower features an exclusive lounge with indoor and outdoor areas allowing guests to taking in sweeping views of the San Bernardino Mountains while indulging in culinary delights paired with the finest wines, spirits, hand crafted cocktails and mocktails. A 2,800-seat theatre is expected to open in sometime in 2022. www.sanmanuel.com
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Plains Region)
After the First American Museum opened to the public in September, Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby unveiled plans for a major resort-style development to be located near the museum.
OKANA Resort & Indoor Waterpark will be a $300 million dollar development along the Oklahoma River near Downtown Oklahoma City. The resort is expected to feature an 11-story, 404 room hotel with riverfront and lagoon views. A five-acre outdoor adventure lagoon will sit at the center of the property. A pedestrian bridge will stretch across the main body of water, allowing guests to easily move throughout the property. The resort also will feature a 33,000 square-foot family entertainment center, over 100,000 square-foot indoor waterpark, 39,000 square feet of conference center space, spa and golf simulator, multiple retail outlets and dining options.
The Cove at Sylvan Beach, Indian Oneida Nation
Sylvan Beach, New York (Eastern Region)
The Oneida Indian Nation is planning to open an all-new hospitality and recreational tourism destination. The Cove at Sylvan Beach is scheduled to open in summer 2022. The brand new development will feature 70 two-and three-bedroom cottages, each with a dedicated pontoon or boat deck and slip. Other amenities include fire-pits, gas grills, and an on-site store, Sylvan Beach Supply Co.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (Eastern Region)
The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are partnering with DreamCatcher Hotels to develop a high-end hotel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The property features 12,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, a rooftop restaurant and lounge, and 200 guest rooms. The hotel site is strategically located within the heart of dining, shopping and excursion options while also sitting adjacent to the Leconte Center and the Cal Ripken Baseball/Softball Experience. The property is expected to open in the summer of 2023.
We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort Debuts Spectacular New Facility
Fort McDowell (Scottsdale), Arizona (Southwest Region)
Owned and operated by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, the stunning new 166,341-square-foot We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort boasts state-of-the-art gaming, a variety of specialty fine and casual dining restaurants, Native American design elements, live entertainment, and other attributes designed to maximize the comfort, safety and enjoyment of all who visit the casino and stay at the adjacent 246-room AAA Four Diamond hotel. The sophisticated new casino opened in October 2020, replacing the original Fort McDowell Casino.
The Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club was named #4 in Golf Magazine’s Best Arizona Golf Courses in 2020, while the Cholla course ranked #7 in Golfweek’s Best: State-by-State Courses. Media contact: Gail Manginelli, GM & Associates, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shoshone Rose Casino & Hotel Reopens
Lander, Wyoming (Plains Region)
The Shoshone Rose Casino & Hotel held a weekend-long Grand Reopening celebration, starting May 6. The reopening commenced with a prayer by Shoshone traditional leader Arlen Shoyo, while SBC Chairman John St. Clair announced a welcome to visitors. The hotel’s snack bar has also re-opened to the public with an all new menu. The restaurant, Deka-Guy Hee, it will re-open at a future date. The Rose now employs about 100 people, with about half being former employees.
Choctaw Casino & Resort Luxury Sky Tower
Durant, Oklahoma (Plains Region)
The Choctaw Casino & Resort opened the doors to its brand new $600 million luxury Sky Tower – an extension to its resort. The 21-story tower features an additional 1,000 hotel rooms, an expanded gaming experience, restaurants, lounges and new entertainment options.
World class collection of Choctaw art lines the Sky Tower’s walls, walkways, and even the ceilings. The collection includes several pieces exclusively commissioned for the new tower and each piece – from paintings and drawings to sculpture and special art installations – was created by a Choctaw artist. The Sky Tower art collection features 58 pieces of public art from 31 artists who are Choctaw tribal members from across the country. The collection is open to Choctaw Casino & Resort guests as well the public and most is available for viewing 24-7.
The expansion was initiated to bring a better overall, luxurious experience to guests and meet the needs of its expanding customer base. The expansion is also expected to provide an additional 1,000 new jobs, create important resources for tribal members and bring in millions of dollars in economic growth for Oklahoma.