Native American Museums — 10 of the Best in the US

Native American Museums — 10 of the Best in the US

Native American museums are one of the best opportunities to experience and appreciate Native American history and culture, both past and present. Whether you live on the west coast, the east coast or somewhere in between, there are plenty of options across the U.S. to dive into.

Sadly, many of these cultural centers and museums are not given their due credit and recognition. However, with this list, we hope to bring some much-deserved awareness to these ten American Indian 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, the 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 artists, culture and history!


 


Top Native American Museums 


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 museums is due to its stunning Fort Pitt Museum, which is home to historic galleries, living historical reenactments, and exhibitions exploring the French and Indian War. Within its galleries and exhibitions, the relationship between Native peoples 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 peoples 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 a stunning collection of Native American artifacts and archival items (more than 200,000 of them!), 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 tons more.

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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 thousands of years ago 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 a collection of art and objects that show the daily lives of Native peoples in North America with a focus on tribes and peoples from the Southwest. The Heard Museum's exhibitions include textiles, ceramics, weaving, jewelry, clothing, and more, from prehistoric to modern. The Heard Museum also features 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, Heard Museum hosts the World Hoop Dance Championships, including the first virtual hoop dance contest in 2021.

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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 its 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 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 the Black Hills and Native American culture. Art collections and galleries feature the unique telling of the story 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 archeology of the location. They run several educational programs and have many dynamic and interactive displays and outdoor exhibits from several renowned Native artists.

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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 and 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.

Learn More


There are over a hundred American Indian 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 American Indian 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

 

Last Updated on May 22, 2024 by Paul G


58 Comments on “Native American Museums — 10 of the Best in the US”

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      Thanks for the reminder! Great museum!

  • Avatar for Steve

    Steve

    says:

    I don’t wish to offend…these are my thoughts alone and I stand by them….

    I don’t wish to visit a museum with trains… or…Christian art……I want to visit a museum with pre European contact works…arts..crafts…. history….. a skin with elk teeth or seeds says more than a trade cloth with glass beads to me…one speaks and makes my heart soar…the other…makes my heart sad…are they both art and a part of native culture…certainly…but they are worlds apart…one is of the past… undiluted by European influences ….one is part of the now…..they seem at odds……like the word…Indian…say what ….the mistake lingers in history…..embraced by peoples….this isn’t India….the people here were not Indians……no….to many European concepts linger…it all becomes less than what it is….part of the European plan…why embrace that?

    Think free…knowledge is there to be found….truth will set you free…the reservation…it’s a crime against humanity….remember that in your comfort.

    Maybe read Ned Blackhawks’ words and cry with me…. facts ….it’s complicated….truth matters…knowledge is power.

  • Avatar for Ethan Miedema

    Ethan Miedema

    says:

    The Burke Museum in Seattle is curated by Native folks and contains more genuine native artifacts, collected consciously and correctly, than some museum in Texas or Pittsburgh. Both of those places are awful compared to the Burke.

  • Avatar for Alicia Massie-Legg

    Alicia Massie-Legg

    says:

    Small but mighty, the Birthplace of Sequoyah Museum in Vonore, Tennessee is a great experience. It recently received a big upgrade and does a wonderful job giving the history behind Sequoyah’s work in writing down the Cherokee language. The admission fee is really reasonable, as well.

    • Avatar for Steve

      Steve

      says:

      Lucky you Alicia….living in the morning shadow of the smokies….close to those that stayed behind….
      Some days…from here in Montana I can hear the call….but frankly I fear what I would see…..much has changed since I last visited home grounds a two decade ago ….I smiled at your post….some of what has changed sounds good it would seem….glad you let others know !
      Thank you

  • Avatar for westx23ds

    westx23ds

    says:

    The Museum of the Plains Indian in North Browning, Montana near the Blackfeet Rez was a great visit for me 25 yrs ago.

    • Avatar for Ethan Miedema

      Ethan Miedema

      says:

      Fantastic museum from my rez, it’s got a ton in a small footprint

    • Avatar for Kathleen Wilson

      Kathleen Wilson

      says:

      Absolutely agree. Wonderful collection, staffed by local natives, and some locally made beadwork, art work, and traditional foods available in the gift shop.

  • Avatar for Linda

    Linda

    says:

    The Abbe Museum in Bar Harbour Maine belongs on this list, IMHO.

    • Avatar for Anita L Jackson

      Anita L Jackson

      says:

      Tamastslikt Culture Institute is an outstanding museum owned and operated by the Umatilla Tribe in Oregon. I am disappointed that most of the museums you have ranked as “the 10 best” are east of the Rocky Mountains. Our Oregon, Washington and Idaho tribes also own and operate incredible museums of their own and I would compare them to any others in the United States. The Museum at Warm Springs, the Yakama Heritage Center, and others. If you are really going to determine which are “the best” (by who’s standard?) then please carefully research all in existance and then tell us what your criteria are, since you have not dont that in this article.

      • Avatar for Paul G

        Paul G

        says:

        Thanks for the feedback. We’ll look at updating our list!

  • Avatar for JD Farmer

    JD Farmer

    says:

    There are many in Oklahoma, surprised none listed here considering the number of tribes in Oklahoma. Whether Seminole, Cherokee, Choctaw, Citizen Potawatomy, Muskogee Creek and those are just the ones within an hour of where I live.

  • Avatar for Belinda Woodruff

    Belinda Woodruff

    says:

    There’s one in Weatherford, Texas called Museum of the America’s. I couldn’t figure out how to send link it you. It’s on the square of Weatherford on 180.

  • Avatar for Carroll

    Carroll

    says:

    The First Americans Museum (formerly the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum) just opened in Oklahoma City, OK.

  • Avatar for Becky

    Becky

    says:

    Also, the Frisco Native American Museum in Frisco, NC Great place to visit if you’re ever at the Outer Banks!

  • Avatar for Becky

    Becky

    says:

    Indian Steps Museum nestled in the forest and along the Susquehanna River in Southern York County (Airville) PA is a hidden little gem. It’s been a museum since 1939. The building is really neat (built 1912) They normally have a Pow Wow there though it had to be canceled this year. I’m fascinated by the history of the Susquehannock’s- and ISM displays much information about them (as well as all tribes). They also offer cool workshops, lectures as well as Native skills and crafts classes. As does: Blue Rock Heritage Center in Washington Boro, PA and the Zimmerman Center for Heritage in Hellam, PA. I’ve learned a lot from these three unique places local to me. Check them out if you’d like to know more about Eastern Woodland history, and participate in events hosted by Native Americans representing many different tribes! If anyone goes now, be on the look out for Paw Paws! Yum!

    • Avatar for Margaret

      Margaret

      says:

      Thank you so much for listing this – I’ve been looking for the pow wow. Good to know.

  • Avatar for Running Doe

    Wado I love all of them shows the true history of our native wado for sharing

  • Avatar for Karen MAINS

    Karen MAINS

    says:

    The Heritage Center at the Toppenish Washington Yakama Reservation is a wonderful museum of the Yakima Nation which seems to be overlooked , Also Fort Okanogan Indian and Pioneer Museum tells you of the history of the Colville Indian Nation, where the Okanogan and Columbia River meets near Bridgeport and Brewster Washington towns. Nespelem is where the agency headquarter are located also it it the area burning right now due to lightening strikes, they have lost homes, ranches and many horses and cattle, it is still burning.

  • Avatar for Rhonda Scott

    Rhonda Scott

    says:

    “End of the Trail” museum at the Tree’s of Mystery in Klamath, California. 95548
    I am told it is the largest private collection on display in the U.S., representing over 300 U.S. tribes.

  • Avatar for Guy D

    Guy D

    says:

    We were very impressed with the museum at Crazyhorse, South Dakota

    • Avatar for Vance

      Vance

      says:

      The Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum at Big Cedar Lodge near Branson Missouri is incredible. It is a Native American Museum with things from all over the Americas so the name is a bit misleading. No one will be disappointed with the amazing diversity of artifacts and displays.

  • Avatar for Tim

    Tim

    says:

    The Red Pueblo Museum and Heritage Park in Fredonia, AZ houses one of the best collections of Anasazi and older artifacts. Very small but well worth the time.

  • Avatar for BOBBY LONEWOLF GENTRY

    BOBBY LONEWOLF GENTRY

    says:

    untill today I knew of only one Native museum. It is in the east central part of Tennessee, in Severville. It doubles as a Museum and Native merchandise outlet store. I would love to get to visit the others before I leave here on my final journey. I am 69 years old and found out about my Native ancestry when I was 50. Indiana changed my birth certificate to read blank under Race. And changed my “Lonewolf” middle name to just “L”, so I could be adopted by a white couple who were my Foster parents, at the time. At the time Indiana would not let a mixed blood child br adopted by whites. So in order to do so they changed my paperwork. I am 1/2 Cheyenne and 1/2 Irish, and proud to be both.

  • Avatar for Elisse

    Elisse

    says:

    This is a GREAT list! Keeping and sharing this!

  • Avatar for Amy B

    Amy B

    says:

    Seneca Art & Culture Center at Ganondagan State Historic Site. On the grounds of an original 17th-century Seneca Town. Victor, NY, suburb of Rochester.

  • Avatar for Bradley A Greenwood

    Bradley A Greenwood

    says:

    Disappointed to not see Woolaroc on the list. 🙁

    • Avatar for Nelson Villanueva

      Nelson Villanueva

      says:

      It would be educational if there was a museum about the Taino Native Americans from the Caribbean .

      • Avatar for Ethel Flores

        Ethel Flores

        says:

        San Francisco Bay Area?

    • Avatar for Shell Scott

      Shell Scott

      says:

      I agree. The most phenomenal museum I have ever been in by far. If your in the area also visit the Gilcrease museum in Tulsa.

    • Avatar for Sandy Gold

      Sandy Gold

      says:

      I was also disappointed that Woolaroc was not on list but glad to see it got a mention in the comments. So much more than a museum – beautiful grounds!

  • Avatar for annette price

    Visit the Wolf Creek Cherokee Tribal Center and Museum in Henrico County Virginia. The artifacts are up to 15,000 years old from their local archaeological dig.

    • Avatar for Tracie

      Tracie

      says:

      I’m REALLY surprised that my local museum wasn’t mentioned at all. It’s called “ The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum” in Oklahoma City. https://nationalcowboymuseum.org/

      It’s not just cowboy stuff, it’s at least half Native American art by non N.A artists and/or actual Native American artists. It’s a huge museum and has a little bit of everything, even a faux real-to-life Old West town on display, inside. I love this museum, there’s so much to see and do.

  • Avatar for Bill Milner

    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.

    • Avatar for Jeri Mae Rowley

      Jeri Mae Rowley

      says:

      Yes, starting with your “neighbors” in your own backyard.

  • Avatar for nadine larcomb

    nadine larcomb

    says:

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

    • Avatar for Nelson Villanueva

      Nelson Villanueva

      says:

      It would be educational if there was a museum about the Taino Native Americans from the Caribbean .

      • Avatar for Ellen A. Johnson

        Ellen A. Johnson

        says:

        Been there twice and want to go back again. So fascinating and magical.

      • Avatar for Paul Thorpe

        Paul Thorpe

        says:

        El Cemí Museum, Jayuya, Puerto Rico

    • Avatar for Betsy

      Betsy

      says:

      Absolutely

  • Avatar for Walter Hauter

    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.

  • Avatar for David Markham

    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.

    • Avatar for Flavia

      Flavia

      says:

      I visited a beautiful Museum of Native American Culture in Madison, Wisconsin.

  • Avatar for Rachel

    Rachel

    says:

    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

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      Subscribe to our newsletter. We send out Pow Wow updates twice a month.

      Thanks

      • Avatar for Betsy

        Betsy

        says:

        Absolutely

  • Avatar for DWilliams

    DWilliams

    says:

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

    • Avatar for Beth

      Beth

      says:

      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.

  • Avatar for Mikkel

    Mikkel

    says:

    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”?

    • Avatar for PAUL BRANNUM

      PAUL BRANNUM

      says:

      Some second or third generation immigrant from India refer to themselves as Native Americans and do attempt to take over some of the very small American projects for their own purpose.

  • Avatar for dale cosper

    dale cosper

    says:

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

  • Avatar for Vicki Oswald

    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.

    • Avatar for Bradley F Reynolds

      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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