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Five More Indigenous Experiences Everyone Should Have
Eat Native American food
Whether its traditional recipes or new interpretations featuring buffalo, Salmon, wild game and foraged herbs or items like Indian fry bread (sometimes also called scones) and Indian tacos, Native American foods go far beyond the turkey, cranberries, and squash that have graced many of our Thanksgiving tables. You’ll find Native food at powwows and on tribal lands, and centers like the Tigua Indian Cultural Center near downtown El Paso, Texas you can buy fresh baked breads. Along South Dakota’s Native American Scenic Byway you’ll find Ubetcha Wateca in Eagle Butte, Shari Ducheneaux’s Lakota-owned restaurant specializing in Native American foods, much of it locally grown and processed. Visit Kauai’s Kalalea Juice Hale for shaved ice, fruit, and Açai bowls. At Tocabe, in Denver, Colorado, every meal tells the American Indian culture of co-owners Matt Chandra and Ben Jacobs through native-sourced recipes and ingredients.
Take language classes
On South Dakota’s Flandreau Reservation dive deeper into the local culture, by taking language classes at the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe’s Wakpa Ipaksan Dakota Language Program at the Wicoicaga Otipi Community Center (fsst-nsn.gov). Numerous other tribes also offer language classes, but others regard their language as proprietary, reserved for their members only.
Visit a Native American Museum
There are over a hundred Native American museums, but the most comprehensive collections are found at Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian (americanindian.si.edu), which has two branches, one in Washington, D.C., the other in New York City. The latter is currently featuring a “Native New York” exhibit. The museum houses 800,000 items from more than 1,200 Indigenous cultures, covering everything from tribal culture, spirituality, and traditions to contemporary identity issues and from to ancient artifacts to modern art works.
Spend the night in a tipi
Lakota Youth Development Tipi Stays on South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation raise funds to support young tribal members. Each 18-foot canvas Tipi is spacious enough to sleep eight and includes cots and air mattresses or sleeping mats, and sleeping bags for those who do not bring their own. For an additional cost, travelers can also take advantage of cultural experiences, including historical or medicinal and wild edibles tours, traditional Lakota games, dance performances, storytelling, or hands-on craft making. (lakotayouthdevelopment.org)
Face the hard facts
There is no true celebration of America’s Indigenous people without acknowledging their history and resilience in face of genocidal brutality by which they were forcibly removed from much of the continent. Learn about the Cherokee’s forced dislocation on the Trail of Tears, via the National Historic Trail and the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Drive the scenic Nez Perce National Historic Trail to follow the dramatic journey of the Nez Perce Tribe from Oregon to Montana as they attempted to flee the U.S. military in 1877. In southeastern Idaho, mourn massacred Shoshone tribal members (including women and children) at Massacre Rocks State Park and the Bear River Massacre Site.
Find more destinations at AIANTA’s site (NativeAmerica.travel) and via Association of Tribal Archives Libraries and Museums (atalm.org), which keeps a comprehensive list of all facilities.