10 of the Best Native American Museums in the United States

10 of the Best Native American Museums in the United States

Posted By PowWows.com July 9th, 2019 Blog

Whether you live in the west coast, the east coast, or somewhere in between, there are plenty of opportunities to experience and appreciate Native American history and culture, both past and present, through Native American museums, sprinkled throughout the U.S.

Sadly, many of these cultural centers and museums are not usually thought of as famous local or national sites to visit. However, with this list, we hope to bring some much-deserved awareness to these ten Native American museums.

Photo courtesy of Xiquinho Silva https://www.flickr.com/photos/xiquinho/27232152372/



These museums feature incredible displays of artifacts and historical objects, but they also showcase the living Native American culture through events, seminars, Pow Wows, and more.

So, next time you want to discover more about the indigenous peoples of North America, take a trip to one of these museums celebrating Native American history and culture!


1. Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos, NM

This museum is all about celebrating and sharing the “arts and cultures of the Southwest.” While it is a smaller museum than some others on our list, it holds an impressive collection of beautiful pieces and a rich cultural tradition. The museum, a historical site in its own right is named for the fashionista, Millicent Rogers (1902-1953), whose passion for North American cultural heritage left a lasting legacy. This museum is home to Roger’s own beautiful collection of Native American turquoise jewelry and her own creations, as well as many Native American and Hispanic arts, ranging from prehistoric to contemporary.

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2. Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, PA

This impressive center of Western Pennsylvanian history includes several museums, from the main Heinz History Center to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. However, its spot in this list of Native American peoples museums is due to its stunning Fort Pitt Museum, which is home to historic galleries, living history reenactments, and exhibitions exploring the French and Indian War. Within its galleries and exhibitions, the relationship between Native Americans and the French and English who all competed for the land are explored. This center is also affiliated with the Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, which is an unbelievable archeological treasure: the oldest known site of human habitation in North America used continuously by the Native Americans until the 18th century.

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3. Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki, Clewiston, FL

This museum, located on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation, hosts about 200,000 different artifacts and archival items, expressing the living history and culture of the Seminole peoples. Named in the Seminole language “a place to learn and remember,” Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki not only has collections of patchwork clothing, baskets, dolls, and other traditionally-created pieces of cultural significance from the 20th century, but is also home to a large collection of historic archives, conservation work, and oral history.

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4. Onöhsagwë:de’ Cultural Center, Salamanca, NY

This Native American cultural center features interactive exhibits, programs, and collections that allow patrons to explore the daily life and struggles of Native American peoples from prehistory to today, through changing exhibits and permanent art collections, featuring artwork in traditional mediums, such as beadwork, antler carvings, and cornhusk pieces. They also host an annual traditional dance competition as part of their Winter Social Pow Wow.

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5. Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix is home to Heard Museum, a Native American Indian museum featuring art and objects that show the daily lives of Native peoples in North America with a focus on tribes and peoples from the Southwest. Their exhibitions include textiles, ceramics, weaving, jewelry, clothing, and more, from prehistoric to modern. They also feature contemporary artwork by Native American artists. Their award-winning changing exhibits range from mural artwork, stonework, and other featured collections to historical time periods, persons, and influential topics. Each year, Head Museum hosts the World Hoop Dance Championships.

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6. Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH

With a powerful backstory of multiculturalism and diversity, this museum has a unique heritage of Native American land reclamation. Located in the beautiful woods of New Hampshire, this museum features tours through the Medicine Woods that showcase the natural flora that Native Americans historically used for food, medicine, and more. With interactive and educational exhibits, this museum offers guided tours of their facility that help you get the most out of its many exhibits, outdoor features, and programs. They organize lectures, crafts, workshops, and more. It is also home to the Annual Harvest Moon and NatureFest, a fun day of cultural food, exhibits, and storytelling, appreciating a traditional harvest celebration.

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7. The Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis, IN

This museum displays the rich cultural diversity of North American peoples through an expansive collection of storytelling, artistic expression, and artifacts. One of the only Midwestern museums to present the histories of both Native America and the American West, The Eiteljorg is located in Indianapolis and showcases many dynamic collections of art, history, and culture. From sculptures and paintings to weaving and pottery, this museum of historical and contemporary art is something you won’t want to miss. The museum also organizes many educational and cultural programs and festivals, such as the summer Indian Market & Festival, throughout the year.

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8. Six Nations Indian Museum, Onchiota, NY

This family-owned museum features artifacts, arts, and educational exhibits from the perspective of North American indigenous peoples. With a focus on Haudenosaunee culture, this unique museum represents the tribes of the Six Iroquois Nations Confederacy: Mohawks, Senecas, Onondagas, Oneidas, Cayugas, and Tuscaroras. Not only are the exhibits beautiful representations of Native American culture, but even the museum building itself is decorated with Haudenosaunee symbols and motifs.

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9. The Journey Museum and Learning Center, Rapid City, SD

This immersive museum houses five major prehistoric and historic collections of art, artifacts, and exhibits to shed light on history from the Black Hills and Native American culture. Art collections and galleries feature the unique telling of the history of the Western Great Plains through the eyes of the Lakota people, as well as the historic pioneers who settled there and the contemporary scientists who study the archeological and natural history of the location. They run several educational programs and have many dynamic and interactive displays and outdoor exhibits.

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10. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC

No “Native American museums near me” list would be complete without a mention of the most famous museum of all: the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. It has the honor of being the first national museum of Native American heritage and culture and its over 800,000 items represent more than 1,200 indigenous cultures, from items and educational materials on religion, traditions, and contemporary identity to ancient artifacts and modern fine art. There is also a sister museum located in New York, NY. They host several annual celebrations and festivals that highlight the rich traditions of heritage of indigenous peoples, including a six-day celebration called the Kaypi Perú Festival, a summer Native Art Market, and an annual Hawaiian cultural celebration.

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There are over a hundred Native American museums throughout the country – too many to list them all here! We strongly encourage you to visit the ones on this list or to do your own research and find Native American museums near you. Exploring these important places allows you to appreciate some of the nation’s hidden gems of cultural and historical significance.

Featured Image From Neta Lind


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Comments

14 thoughts on “10 of the Best Native American Museums in the United States

  1. Bill Milner says:

    Even the smallest Indian Museum is an educational opportunity. Don’t just drive by. You will be rewarded for the effort, by a wonderful new understanding of our First People.

  2. nadine larcomb says:

    The Pequot museum in Connecticut is worth a visit. So interesting and informative! And fun!

  3. Hello – please do not forget the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK! It is certainly one of the best museums of Native American art and culture in this country.

  4. David Markham says:

    So glad The Eiteljorg Museum made this list. We visited it last year and thought it was an amazing place. Another small museum that I enjoy and try to visit every time we’re in the area but didn’t make this list is the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville, Ark. They have a great and growing collection that includes items from North America, as well as a few from central and South America.

  5. I would love to get updates on the pow wows around the states, the only show I don’t want to know about is gon show I don’t support this show, so if you can send me notifications of the other powwows I would enjoy

  6. DWilliams says:

    Maybe not top 10 of USA, but Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump seriously worth stopping for. Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada

    • No mention of museums in the Pacific Northwest? Burke Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Portland Art Museum. Also Alaska needs to be represented – Alaska Native Heritage Center, Sheldon Jackson Museum, Alaska State Museum, Museum of North.

  7. Can I ask a question? I was wondering this recently before I even saw this post…why is the national museum called “…of the American Indian” and not “Native Americans”?

  8. dale cosper says:

    Seems like there could be some attention given to the trans Missouri Native American museums. Sheesh!

  9. At the age of 10, I developed an interest in Native people. I attended my first Powwow 30 years ago. I just returned from a visit to the Taos Pueblo. When I taught elementary school to African-American children, I joyfully taught some differences between Native tribes.

    • Bradley F Reynolds says:

      I grew up with a Mohawk family I don’t classify myself as Native American or Indian but love the culture I grew up in. I belong to a local Historical Museum. hear in the Northeast Kingdom. Is it okay to try to establish Native American section in our Museum.

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