The United States has a rich history that extends far beyond white settlement. Thousands of years before Europeans arrived, Native American tribes flourished across the land. Connect with our nation’s roots and learn more about the culture of these native people at the following cities.
Santa Fe, New Mexico: City Celebrates Native American Culture
Santa Fe still beats with the heart of the Native American people who first called this nation home. Local museums like the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts tell their story. Their arts and crafts are shown at the many galleries along Canyon Road.
If you want souvenirs, head to the Plaza, where vendors sell Native American crafts including genuine turquoise and silver jewelry. You’ll find more of those arts and crafts if you visit in August, when Native American artists from tribes across the country sell their wares at the two-day Indian Market, one of the biggest markets of its kind in the nation.
Tucson, Arizona: Learn of the Tohono O’odham Tribe
Many Americans have never heard of the Tohono O’odham people who once lived in Tucson, but that’s exactly what makes visiting this Arizona city so appealing to anyone wanting to learn more about Native American culture. Their ancestors continue their traditions today, serving dishes of beans, squash, and corn, weaving baskets from bear grass, devil’s claw, and yucca, and playing Waila music at local events like the annual Southwest Indian Art Fair, held each February.
You can learn more about the Tohono O’odham at any time of year at the Arizona State Museum. Exhibitions detail their traditional way of life, like the harvesting of fruit from the saguaro cactus and the use of calendar sticks to mark the passing of time. There’s more to see at Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center and Museum in Topawa, roughly 70 miles from most hotels in Tucson. Displays showcase baskets, pottery, and photographs detailing the history of these fascinating people.
Tahlequah, Oklahoma: Site of the Trail of Tears
The name Tahlequah might not ring any bells for many Americans, but for Native Americans it’s one of the most important locations in their history. It’s the site of the Trail of Tears, the path the Cherokee people traveled as they were forced from their homes and onto reservations. It’s recognized today as the capital of the Cherokee Nation.
The trail itself is now a historic site. If you walk it, make sure you think about the way the Cherokee people must have felt as they stood where you did in the 1830s. You can learn more about the trail at the Cherokee Heritage Center, which has a permanent exhibition detailing this tragic time in Native American history. A reproduction Cherokee village helps you imagine the way these people lived before being uprooted. Brush up on your Cherokee at the Tahlequah Original Historic Townsite, where street signs are written in English and the native dialect.
The traditional way Native American tribes lived may be gone, but it won’t be forgotten in these fascinating American travel destinations.