Indian nations are seeing exciting tourism growth across the country
For nearly two decades, the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) has been the national voice for American Indian nations engaged in cultural tourism.
In that time, AIANTA has also provided assistance and training to tribal nations and native-owned enterprises engaged in tourism, hospitality and recreation.
AIANTA’s mission is to define, introduce, grow and sustain American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian tourism that honors traditions and values. The organization has witnessed significant Native American tourism destinations thrive and initiatives take flight in recent years, and 2022 looks to be another prosperous year.
Here are some of the newest developments taking place in AIANTA-affiliated destinations.
Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza (Palm Springs, California)
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has broken ground on the 5.8-acre Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza in downtown Palm Springs. The site will open this year and will include a new museum that will 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 Palm Springs area. 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. visionaguacaliente.com/culturalplaza
Café Gozhóó (Northeastern, 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 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. 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. cafegozhoo.com
Choctaw Cultural Center (Durant, Oklahoma)
The Choctaw Cultural Center will 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 a café. choctawculturalcenter.com
Durbin Feeling Language Center (Tahlequah, Oklahoma)
The future Durbin Feeling Language Center is a 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.
First Americans Museum (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
The First Americans Museum opened in September 2021 and 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. famok.org
Oglala Lakota Living History Museum (Cactus Flats, South Dakota)
This summer, the Oglala Lakota Nation and its partners will open the Oglala Lakota Living History Village, an entry point to the picturesque landscape and the past and present culture and indigenous knowledge of Lakota Country. oglalalakotahistoryvillage.com/
PAʻI Arts & Cultural Center (Honolulu, Hawai’i)
The new PAʻI Arts & Cultural Center in Honolulu, scheduled to open in 2022, will deliver Native Hawaiian culture in a multipurpose space that includes 3,000-square-foot performing arts and dance studio, a 1,000 square foot PAʻI Arts Café, 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. Hula has been instrumental in the preservation and perpetuation of Native Hawaiian language, art and cultural practices. paifoundation.org
Three Chiefs Cultural Center (Pablo, Montana)
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 culture of the tribes, 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. csktribes.org
This story ran in the June edition of LGT.