11 of the best ways to discover Native American culture

The Native American culture isn’t just about the origins of this extraordinary continent - it’s very much a part of contemporary America too. You can find out about Native American history through epic landmarks, historical monuments and recreated heritage villages - but you can get a feel for these different nation’s cultures at museums and galleries, film festivals, powwows and even restaurants across the USA. Here is a selection of places and events you can experience to get a taste of Native Americans’ past and present. 

Powhatan Indian Village near Historic Jamestown, Virginia

Discover the story of Pocahontas and the Powhatan Indian’s way of life at Powhatan Indian Village near Historic Jamestown, Virginia. At this re-created village - based on archaeological findings at a site once inhabited by Paspahegh Indians - you’ll find reed-covered houses, crops and a ceremonial circle of carved wooden posts. Visitors can learn how the Powhatan culture grew and prepared food, pictured right, processed animal hides and made tools and pottery, and try out grinding corn, gardening or playing a game of corncob darts. Want to see where Pocahontas married settler John Rolfe? You can visit the chapel where they wed at the live archaeological site at Historic Jamestown. 


Discover Virginia’s history on the go 

Learn about 400 years of USA history wherever you are in Virginia with the new American Evolution™ Digital Trail - VA History Trails app. The app links you to your nearest historical site, and features 400 historically significant locations and stories from through Virginia’s history.

Native American fly-drive, different states

Take a road trip with Frontier America across The Rockies and you can explore the history, culture and homelands of 16 Native American nations. On the expedition you’ll snake between North and South Dakota as well as Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, visiting reserves, museums and national parks, left.


Indian Canyons, Greater Palm Springs, California 

The ancestors of today’s Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians made their home 2,000 years ago in Indian Canyons, in the heart of the Coachella Valley, near Greater Palm Springs, Southern California, and there are more than 400 members still in the region today. Visit the Indian Canyons reservation by foot, bike or horseback to discover rock art, house pits, foundations, dams, reservoirs and trails still exist in the canyons - and enjoy spectacular scenery throughout the Andreas, Murray, Palm and Tahquitz Canyons. Find out more at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, which also holds cultural events including the Native Film Fest, which features the best films by, about, and starring Native Americans and other indigenous people from around the world. There’s more at the Palm Springs Historical Society and Cabot’s Indian Pueblo Museum.

Denver March PowWow, Colorado

The rich heritage of Native Americans is celebrated every March at the Denver March Powwow. This three-day event in Denver, Colorado, is one of the biggest festivals of Native American culture, bringing together more than 1,600 dancers from around 100 tribes from 38 states and three Canadian provinces. Expect singing, dancing, storytelling, food, art and more than 170 stalls selling Native American art works and crafts including jewellery, blankets, pottery, Cheyenne arrows, Sioux tomahawks and beadwork from some of the nation's most skilled Indian craftsman. You can also try out authentic Native American foods including fry bread and Indian tacos. 

Native American in Tulare County, Visalia, California

Drive from Visalia to Sequoia National Park and you can take in the history of the Yokuts and Western Mono or Monache people. Find the largest collection of Native American basketry at the Mooney Grove Museum, bedrock mortar at the Kaweah Heritage Visitors Center and a history of the native peoples of the area at the Ash Mountain Visitors Center in Sequoia National Park. Keep an eye out for traditional 'grinding holes’, holes in the rock that were used for food preparation - or have a National Park Ranger show them to you on a park tour, right. 


National Museum of the American Indian, Washington DC

Get an insight into Native American history and contemporary culture through the collection of 800,000 objects from North, Central and South America cultures housed inside this striking Smithsonian Institution museum on the National Mall in Washington DC. As well as showing historic artefacts, it hosts festivals, concerts and temporary exhibitions by Native artists. Want a taste of contemporary Native American culture? Tuck into specialities at the award-winning Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe. 


Native American Art in Downtown Denver, Colorado

Learn about America's history at the Native American art galleries at the Denver Art Museum, in Denver, Colorado. This collection is one of the best in the USA and there includes more than 18,000 art objects representing the heritage of all cultures and tribes across the United States and Canada.   

Cherokee Heritage Center, Oklahoma

To find out more about the Cherokee Nation, head to Oklahoma - named after the Choctaw phrase ‘okla humma’, which means ‘red people.’ There are 39 federally recognised tribes in the state, and the second greatest percentage of Native Americans in the country. In Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, you can learn about the forced relocation of thousands of Cherokee in 1838-1839 to designated ‘Indian Territory. Their ‘Trail of Tears’, is now a Historic Trail; there’s an exhibition explaining to the event at the  Cherokee Heritage Center, where there's a re-created ancient Cherokee village. In the city’s Tahlequah Original Historic Townsite District, the street signs are written in English and Cherokee. Other Cherokee-related museums include the John Ross Museum, the John Hair Museum and Cultural Center and the Cherokee Supreme Court Museum.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

One of the most amazing attractions in the USA, full-stop, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, left, is home to 600 extraordinary cliff dwellings, carved into the rock preserved prehistoric settlement of the Ancestral Puebloaan culture. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are 5,000 archaeological sites here that offer real insight into spectacular insight into the history of southwest Colorado. The largest of these unique dwellings is the Cliff Palace, which was once inhabited by around 100 Ancestral Pueblo people. This is still a significant site - according to the National Park Service (NPS), 24 American Indian nations consider Mesa Verde their ancestral home.  


Gathering of Nations, Albuquerque, New Mexico

The three-day Gathering of Nations, held every fourth weekend in April in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is North America’s largest powwow and draws 3,000 Native American people from more than 700 tribes with song, food, dance and drumming competitions, the Miss Indian World contest. A highlight is The Grand Entry, where thousands of Native American dancers in full traditional dress enter the University of New Mexico arena to the beat of hundreds of drums.

Posted on: 16/09/2018

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