Though most of us may think Native America is long gone, that is definitely not the case. American Indian culture is doing quite well in galleries, powwows, museum exhibits, restaurants and even film festivals. The stories, both past and present, still excite and amaze its natives and those that are simply interested in the culture. It’s pretty easy to think of Natives as one huge group, but the truth is there are so many different cultures that make up these tribes that live or have lived in America.
Today, these tribes make up a minority in the United States, but their land covers an impressive amount of the Southwest and other corners of the country. If you have a fascination for the rich Native culture, you’ll have no problem at all finding places to visit. Below are a few of our favorite places to visit.
Let us know if you’ve ever experienced one of more of these in the comments!
George Gustav Heye Center- New York
The Heye Center started as the personal collection of George Gustav Heye, who was a rich investment banker. Over time, he collected almost a million items and they became the biggest collection of American Indian items around the world. According to Heye’s will, he wanted his extensive collection to be made available to the public. Since 1994, all of the items have been on display for anyone to see in Lower Manhattan in the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House.
Visitors can expect to find at least 10 headdresses from all different Native tribes and duck decoys from Lovelock Cave, Nevada. (They’re the oldest known in the world, guys!) Moms that are nursing will also love the Yup’ik jacket that holds the baby on the mom’s back until it’s time to feed. Then, the jacket can be miraculously turned forward.
The George Gustav Heye Center is a division of the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C.
National Museum of the American Indian- D.C.
Another awesome destination to learn everything about Native America is the National Museum of the American Indian. It’s the Smithsonian’s national repository of American Indian art and culture on the National Mall. And this place has it all! Their world-class collection has over 800,000 items covering cultures from North, Central and South America. To get the full experience, have lunch at the Native Foods Cafe, which was the first Zagat-rated museum cafe in Washington and has a dedicated following.
The museum is constantly hosting events and public programs, including concerts, festivals, and theater. Not to mention they have one-of-a-kind temporary exhibits featuring work from Native artists like Fritz Scholder, George Morrison and Brian Jungen.
Perhaps the neatest part of the whole building is the design. The grounds has reintroduced a landscape that was indigenous to the area of Washington before contact.
Cherokee Heritage Center- Oklahoma
In the foothills of Oklahoma’s Ozark Mountains sits the Cherokee Heritage Center which is dedicated to keeping the culture and artifacts of the Cherokee Nation alive. Take an educational waling tour through the exhibits of Diligwa that displays a 1710 Cherokee village and allows visitors to get hands on with craft-making demos, storytelling and experience recreated daily life in the early 18th century. Visitors can also hang out at the representation of a late 19th century rural Cherokee village, Adams Corner. Or, take a look at the Trail of Tears exhibit, which explains how the Cherokees were forced from their native lands in the 1830s to what is now Oklahoma.
Gathering of Nations Albuquerque- New Mexico
This is the place to be during the fourth weekend of every April, if you love anything and everything about Native America! Every April, all things Native America happen in Albuquerque for the Gathering of Nations. Known as the world’s biggest Native American cultural event, it’s nothing less than a tribal celebration for all ages. Here, you’ll find over 700 tribes doing what they do best and you won’t want to miss the crowning of Miss Indian!
The event celebrated its 33rd year in 2017 and strives to be the best positive cultural experience for everyone that comes. This massive powwow includes thousands of dancers performing their own styles from tons of regions and tribes, offers Native American arts and crafts at the Indian Traders Market, an extensive and tasty variety of Native American and Southwest cuisine and the neatest contemporary entertainment performances.
As if the event couldn’t get any more extravagant, the Grand Entry is something special. Thousands of Native American dancers all enter the University of Mexico’s arena in full uniform while dancing to the beat of hundreds of drums. It’s definitely a sight to see!
American Indian Film Festival- San Francisco
One unique way to learn about Indian life and culture is through a lens. Most don’t think about watching films, but it’s one of the best way to truly grasp and understand the modern Native experience. Besides Netflix and Hulu, the American Indian Film Festival is one of the best places to do so! The mission of the Institute is to empower American Indian artists, and it’s truly done that by bringing Native stories to its audience for over 40 years.
There are other festivals just like this one around the country, but the AIFI festival in San Francisco is the one that’s been around the longest. And it consistently shows over 85 films each year.
Crow Fair- Montana
Closer to the state of Montana? Check out the Crow Fair! For the whole third week of August, Crow Agency becomes the Tepee center of the world as it hosts the largest modern-day American Indian event in the nation as well as the largest gathering of the year for the Apsaalooke Nation. Everyday parades, evening powwows, an Indian rodeo, Indian relay horse races and the Dance Through Camp are just a few of the meticulous events visitors can enjoy at the fair. The Crow Fair is an amazing display of Native American culture.
While you’re in the area, be sure to stop by the Little Bighorn National Monument. This is where the Sioux and Cheyenne defeated the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry.