Native culture isn’t just something old and dusty in a museum – it is alive and thriving.
All across the USA and Canada, there are many places where the stories and traditions of Native Americans are being told in new and exciting ways.
From Pow Wows to museums to film festivals and much more, there are many places where you can immerse yourself in the rich culture of American Indian communities around the country.
Sky City Cultural Center and Haak'u Museum
Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico
Here you can see the centuries-old homes of the Acoma people and learn about the traditions that have been passed down for generations. The tour is fascinating – you will learn about all of the ways that the tribe has survived over the years high above the desert floor without any ground water.
Mountainside Theatre, Cherokee, North Carolina
The outdoor drama “Unto These Hills” debuted in 1950 and since then it has been seen by over six million people. This powerful and moving theatrical performance tells the story of the Cherokee people from 1780 to the 21st century. It is performed under the stars at the beautiful Mountainside Theatre, so you can watch from a blanket on the grass. Although it is a family friendly production, it depicts the hardships and tragedies of Cherokee history and will give you a deeper understanding of the difficulties that this tribe has gone through.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The Gathering of Nations is the largest powwow in the entire country and is thought to be the biggest gathering of tribes in the world. This huge summer event brings over 150,000 visitors from all over to enjoy traditional music and performances and watch the Miss Indian World pageant. The event also features the Indian Trader’s Market where you can shop for beautiful handmade products.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
This is another great place to visit that is more than just a museum – it is a living center for Indian culture. As well as the 10,000 square foot museum there are also changing exhibits highlighting the work of modern artists, traditional Indian dance performances, artist demonstrations and much more.
San Francisco, California
This festival is the oldest one dedicated solely to Native American films and it was a groundbreaking event that paved the way for the American Indian Film Institute to be established. It is a great opportunity to hear both ancient and modern stories of Native culture, being told by creative and talented directors and filmmakers from the Native community.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
New Mexico is rich in Native American culture and during your visit you’ll want to take the opportunity to visit the Santa Fe Indian Market. It is a dazzling marketplace that brings together the most talented Native American artisans from all across North America. Here you will find gorgeous handmade pottery, jewelry, clothing, paintings and so much more. Plus, you will get to meet the artists and talk to them about their craft.
The families who live at Taos Pueblo live their lives in the same way that their ancestors have for centuries, in adobe homes with no electricity or running water. Taos Pueblo is believed to be 1000 years old – one of the longest continuously inhabited communities in the nation. Today it is a United Nations World Heritage Site and you can take a tour to learn about what life is like here.
This Smithsonian museum has a huge collection of fascinating American Indian artifacts and artwork, covering cultures from Central, North and South America. However, you can find more than just museum exhibits here. Native history comes to life here with a full calendar of public programs including traditional music concerts, festivals, and performances. Also, you can dine in the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe, which has a superb reputation for its authentic cuisine.
A visit to this heritage center will be a great opportunity to learn about native history and culture. You will learn about the tragic Trail of Tears where the tribe was forcibly moved to Oklahoma in the 1830s and you can visit Diligwa – a living history village that depicts Cherokee life as it would have been in the early 1700s. The center also offers cultural classes where you can learn about traditional Cherokee arts, such as basketry and pottery.
This museum is dedicated to preserving the culture and heritage of Native Americans in the Southwestern USA and it is home to around 44,000 objects, including Zuni jewelry, Navajo textiles and much more. The museum offers a free guided tour that is packed with very interesting information about native culture and history. Also, the events calendar is filled with workshops, festivals, classes and art expos. They are also home to the annual World Hoop Dancing Championships!
Where will you go on your quest to experience authentic living native culture?