background image

Tourism in Indian Country

Are you planning your next vacation? If so, there are plenty of options in Indian Country to look at before finalizing your plans.

The closest, of course, is Talking Stick Resort and its award-winning amenities in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Talking Stick Resort was recently named the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) 2017-18 Tribal Destination of the Year.

“We are proud to promote Talking Stick Resort and its authentic and entertaining experiences when we are telling the story of tourism in the Community,” said Blessing McAnlis-Vasquez, Talking Stick Entertainment Destination marketing manager. “To have organizations such as AIANTA recognize that effort and further support all that we are doing is sensational. Our goal is to help grow the recognition of Salt River as a destination for family fun and making memories, and an award such as this further solidifies that effort.”

But, if you’re looking beyond the Valley, or even beyond Arizona, the following list is a nice start.

Note: The following list includes information from exhibitor booths at AIANTA’s recent conference in Wisconsin.

Nevada’s Indian Territory
Location: Nevada
Closest major airports: Las Vegas, Reno

Arizona’s neighbor to the northwest, Nevada, is home to 27 tribal communities representing the Washoe, Northern Paiute, Southern Paiute and Western Shoshone tribes. A quick flight to Las Vegas or Reno lands you close to some of the best attractions in Indian Country.

Nevada’s tribal communities are known for a variety of attractions, including the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort, award-winning powwows and Pyramid Lake.

The Stewart Father’s Day Powwow, which raises funds to preserve the historic Stewart Indian School in Carson City, recently earned the Best Cultural Heritage Experience Award from the AIANTA.

Nevada’s Indian Territory, a nonprofit group, promotes tourism as economic development to boost tribal communities in the state. The nonprofit’s website features a downloadable tourism brochure, a must-have for any visitor. It explains the Washoe tribe’s cultural connection to Lake Tahoe, which straddles the California-Nevada border, and many other cultural and historical aspects of the state.

“Our pitch would be that Nevada is unique,” said Michon Eben of Nevada’s Indian Territory. “We have a lot of rodeos, plenty of petroglyph sites to visit, natural hot springs, Indigenous dances and large powwows as well.”

Oglala Sioux Tribe
Location: Pine Ridge, South Dakota
Closest major airport: Rapid City, South Dakota

The well-known Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota is home to the Lakota people and their rich history.

The reservation is about a 90-minute drive southeast of Rapid City and about six hours north of Denver, Colorado. It’s home to the Prairie Wind Casino and Hotel, Red Cloud Heritage Center, Oglala Lakota College Historical Center and the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre, perhaps the reservation’s biggest tourism draw.

The 135-member Pine Ridge Area Chamber of Commerce is working to enhance businesses on the reservation, partly through tourism. A major Interstate highway goes through South Dakota, and Ivan Sorbel, the chamber’s executive director, is working to get some of the traffic to veer south to Pine Ridge.

One piece of the plan is a 30,000-brochure push annually. The brochure includes a list of tribal businesses and attractions, along with a detailed map.

“The number-one reason people come to South Dakota is for Mount Rushmore, but we have a number of national parks that sit around the reservation,” he said. “Our attempt is to pull people south of Interstate 90.”

Pine Ridge is just east of the Black Hills National Forest and south of Badlands National Park.

Overall, maybe 100,000 people visit Pine Ridge annually, Sorbel said. Meanwhile, the Badlands sees about 1 million and Mount Rushmore about 4 million.

“We don’t do near those numbers,” he said. “Pulling visitors down and through the reservation is how we are looking at [boosting] economic development.”

Oneida Nation
Location: Oneida, Wisconsin
Closest major airport: Green Bay, Wisconsin

The culture-rich Oneida Nation of Wisconsin is located next to Green Bay, not far from Lake Michigan, in the eastern part of the Badger State.

The Radisson Hotel and Conference Center Green Bay, and the adjacent Oneida Casino, are situated across the street from the Green Bay airport and about a two-hour drive north of Milwaukee.

Beyond the gaming action, the community has a golf course, a buffalo farm, an apple orchard, an Oneida market that sells traditional goods, and the Oneida Nation Museum. The buffalo farm includes an overlook with informative signage.

Members of the tribal community, like many in Wisconsin, are big fans of the Green Bay Packers football team. The team’s home, Lambeau Field, is about five miles from the Radisson. The community and team have a partnership that includes a sponsored gate at Lambeau Field.

Mescalero Apache Tribe
Location: Mescalero, New Mexico
Closest major airport: El Paso, Texas
Website: or

The beautiful Mescalero Apache Reservation in southern New Mexico is home to a variety of attractions, including its prized Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort and Casino.

The community is about two and a half hours from El Paso, Texas, and three hours south of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Besides gaming, the resort includes opportunities to fish and boat, as well as ziplining, live music entertainment and plenty of food options. Elk hunting is also popular here.

The community’s ski resort, Ski Apache, opens on November 23 for the upcoming winter season.

“The really nice thing is that we have all four seasons,” said Charles Meeks, executive sales and catering manager for the resort and casino. “It’s a beautiful place for a resort and to visit. It can be 110 degrees in El Paso, but in our place, it can be in the 80s.”

Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours
Location: Page, Arizona
Closest major airport: Flagstaff, Arizona

“Experience natural beauty like never before,” promises Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours.

Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation, is a “very unique experience,” said Marketing Manager Jaslynn Begay. The canyon, located a little more than two hours north of Flagstaff, near the Utah border, is worth a trip from Phoenix and the Salt River Community. Antelope Canyon is one of the most photographed canyons in the Southwest.

Summer is the best time to visit, Begay said, but be sure to dedicate enough time because the demand can get high. “You have to remember that people from all over the world visit the canyon,” she said. On average, 700 to 900 people visit the Antelope Canyon each day from April to September, and peak canyon beauty is from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Begay said.

The cooler months usually mean less foot traffic, and the canyon provides a different array of colors from September through March.

Antelope Canyon Navajo Tours is one of five companies that offer tours of the canyon. Reservations, though not required, are encouraged to safely secure a spot.