- New Mexico
Across the USA, an effort is continually made to preserve and share the storied and often tragic history of Indigenous Americans in North America.
Indigenous cultures on the continent have thrived for thousands of years, and visitors have the opportunity to learn about them by viewing exhibits, visiting living history museums, attending events, exploring ancient sites and talking with tribal members. Here are just some of the places and events in the USA where you can experience Indigenous American culture.
National Museum of the American Indian
The first national museum in the United States dedicated solely to Native American heritage, the National Museum of the American Indian, highlights over 12,000 years of history across more than 1,200 indigenous cultures. The museum features one of the world's most expansive collections of American Indian arts, artifacts, and photographic and media archives. Permanent exhibitions delve into native religions and ceremonies, as well as native communities' contemporary struggle for identity. Located on Washington, D.C.'s National Mall in a curved limestone building designed to represent a rock formation, the NMAI regularly hosts cultural festivals, concerts and symposia. At the museum's Mitsitam Native Foods Café, visitors can eat indigenous and contemporary cuisine from across the Americas such as tortillas and buffalo burgers. An extension of the museum opened in New York City, New York, adding 2,000 square meters of exhibition space and a new theater for film and video screenings.
Outside look of the stunning National Museum of the American Indian
Cherokee Heritage Center
In the foothills of Oklahoma's Ozark Mountains lies the the Cherokee National History Museum, dedicated to preserving the culture and artifacts of the Cherokee tribe. The museum resides in the original Cherokee National Capitol building in downtown Tahlequah, walking distance to the Cherokee National Peace Pavilion, Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum, and Cherokee National Prison Museum. The museum holds timeless art, tribal artifacts and multimedia displays providing insight into the great Cherokee Nation, all included in the free admission. The museum also offers cultural classes that promote traditional Cherokee arts, such as pottery and basketry, and holds annual art shows featuring traditional and contemporary Cherokee works.
Colorfully dressed Cherokee dancer during a performance at a cultural festival in Oklahoma
Gathering of Nations
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Billed as the largest powwow in North America, the annual Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, attracts thousands of indigenous people representing hundreds of tribes. The multiday event's festivities celebrate and promote Native American cultural heritage. Highlights include traditional song, dance and drumming competitions, which feature over 3,000 performers representing more than 500 North American tribes. Attendees can also buy paintings, jewelry and pottery from more than 800 Native American artisans, and eat traditional foods like fry bread, deep-fried quick bread served with honey or taco toppings.
Attendees at the Gathering of Nations, the largest powwow in North America
Taos, New Mexico
Learn about ancient pueblo life, culture and history at Taos Pueblo, which has been continuously inhabited by members of the Taos tribe for more than 1,000 years. Set against a backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this UNESCO World Heritage site centers around the San Geronimo chapel and two large multistory buildings constructed in typical pueblo style with mud and straw. Today, nearly 150 people call the pueblo home, and visitors can take guided tours, learning about the village’s culture, history and people.
Traditional pueblo village in Taos
The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, exhibits ancient artifacts and contemporary art and is dedicated to preserving the culture and heritage of Native Americans in the Southwestern United States. About 44,000 objects, including Navajo textiles, Zuni jewelry and contemporary Indian art, comprise its collection. Noteworthy exhibits include an acquisition from former U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of more than 430 Hopi Indian kachina dolls. Take a free guided tour and check the events calendar to attend educational classes or the museum's annual arts expo, the Indian Fair and Market.
Displays of colorful textiles and pottery inside the historic Heard Museum
Alaska Native Heritage Center
Alaska is home to 11 indigenous cultures, all with their own languages and traditions, and all are honored at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Just outside downtown Anchorage, the Heritage Center sits on 11 hectares of wooded land. It consists of the Heritage Center with an indoor theater, outdoor theater referred to as the Talking Circle and life-sized recreated dwellings of six of the Alaska Native cultures. The center offers educational programs, dance performances, monthly speakers and guided tours of the museum. It also hosts the World Intertribal Music Festival every August and the Indigenous World Film Festival every February.
Ceremonial performance at the Alaska Native Heritage Center
Blackfeet Indian Reservation
The stunning scenery of western Montana provides the backdrop for the largest reservation in the USA, the Blackfeet Reservation. Home to more than 16,500 members, the Blackfeet Nation honors its long history in the region with museums and festivals. In Browning, the Museum of the Plains Indian houses exhibits highlighting the colorful culture of the ancient people of this land. Visitors can see historic clothing, weapons and toys from the Blackfeet, Crow, Sioux and Chippewa tribes to name a few. For four days in July every year, the museum hosts North American Indian Days, one of the largest gatherings of Indigenous American tribes, celebrating authentic Blackfeet traditions such as dancing, horse relays and games.
Blackfeet dancers dressed up in authentic tribal attire in the Montana wilderness
Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
The site is located 15 kilometers northeast of downtown St. Louis, Missouri, and was once the location of a thriving city of 20,000 Indigenous residents, peaking during the 11th and 12th centuries. Though the civilization is gone, it left behind remnants of the past, most notably 80 humanmade mounds. The area is one of the most complex archaeological sites in the world, with new excavations producing insight to how its inhabitants lived. The onsite Interpretive Center educates through videos, exhibits and presentations telling the rich history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Travelers can climb to the top of most of the mounds for a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding lands.