Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Group Tour magazine will continue to provide group travel inspiration. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information.
From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Navajo Plateau, no heritage runs as deeply and extensively as the Native American narrative. Hundreds of distinct tribes across what is now the United States played a key role in American history and helped shape its past and present.
Immerse in ancient cultures, listen to fascinating stories and help carry on century-old legacies at numerous destinations preserving unique traditions that sustained years of prejudice. These destinations serve as a reminder that the Native American narrative is not just a story of grief, but more importantly, one of strength and survival.
Museum of the Cherokee Indian
Cherokee, North Carolina
Possessing a rich oral history, the Cherokee people have thrived on American soil for thousands of years. Near the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park resides the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, an educational center promoting the history, culture and stories of the Cherokee people.
“Our museum offers visitors a Cherokee view of history,” said Dawn Anreach, interim director at the museum. “Not everything can be found in books.”
The museum’s exhibits touch on the whole of Cherokee history — from the Paleolithic age to today. Awarded by the National Association for Interpretation, the “Story of the Cherokees” exhibit spans 13,000 years using artifacts, artwork, life-sized figures and computer-generated animation to share the Cherokee’s expansive history in the Southern Appalachians.
Bolster the group’s visit with a selection of Cherokee Experiences; engage in basket making, pottery, flintknapping, moccasin making, dance programs and other activities all taught by tribal members who are masters in their field.
In addition to the interactive programs, the museum archives hold an impressive collection of thousands of books, documents and photos pertaining to the Cherokee narrative.
Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki translates to “a place to learn, a place to remember,” a fitting name for a museum that features over 4,000 square feet of exhibit space and 180,000 unique artifacts highlighting the Seminole people. The museum is located on the Big Cypress Indian Reservation.
“When you enter the rich swamplands of the Big Cypress Reservation, you will be introduced to scenic roads, lush vegetation and a thriving community of Seminole tribal citizens,” said Kate Macuen, museum director.
The museum is nestled in the Everglades and boasts a scenic elevated boardwalk. A 66-acre cypress dome shades the walk while along the way educational placards identify 67 different plant species in English and in two Seminole languages — Mikasuki and Creek.
Inside the museum, see exhibits portraying daily Seminole life, like a silversmith crafting decorative jewelry, three women preparing a meal over a fire and a Catfish Dance performance during the Green Corn Ceremony — a religious tradition still practiced by the Seminole Tribe today.
“The museum offers a unique opportunity for visitors to take with them a greater appreciation and understanding of the unique history and culture of the Seminoles,” Macuen said.
Crazy Horse Memorial
Crazy Horse, South Dakota
The Crazy Horse Memorial® is an extraordinary site with a 40,000-square-foot Welcome Center set at the base of the Black Hills — a location chosen for the site of the Crazy Horse mountain carving.
Currently in progress, the carving will be the largest in the world once completed and commemorates the memory of the legendary Lakota leader.
“The mountain is a tribute, but much more than that; it is a tribute to the culture, people and living history of the North American Indian,” said Amanda Allcock, director of sales and tourism at the Crazy Horse Memorial®.
In addition to the monument, the campus includes The Indian Museum of North America®, the Sculptor’s Studio and Home and an on-site restaurant.
See an exhibit on the American bison, a photo collection chronicling American Indians of the West and a collection of tribal flags.
Interactive opportunities are available from May through September — like Native American dance performances, flute playing and the Laser Light Show.
“We also offer step-on guided tours, where a motorcoach group can take their coach with our guide to the base of the mountain for a special experience,” Allcock said.
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Founded by the 19 Pueblo Indian Tribes of New Mexico, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center houses a world-class library and provides unique experiences for groups.
“The IPCC overall is particularly moving, as the exhibits are more about the person and the people, not simply about the art or the things created by the people,” said Evelyn Martinez, tour and sales representative at the center. “We offer a full cultural experience.”
The center debuts multiple rotating exhibits every year and provides immersive activities for visitors weekly.
Take a hands-on frybread-making class and enjoy a delicious traditional meal with a variety of toppings. Save room for a bite at the on-site, Pueblo-inspired restaurant, Pueblo Harvest.
On the weekends, groups can see Pueblo dance performances. This tradition celebrates the seasonal cycles and connects the Pueblo people to their ancestors through prayer, song and dance.
Now through January 2021, explore new exhibits highlighting subjects like Pueblo women’s history, relocation and urban migration.
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center provides easy parking for buses. Take home the visit and stop at the Shumakolowa museum store to find art, jewelry, books and more.