Historic Native American Destinations

America has hundreds of Native American sites that can take children back to a time of traditional medicine, craft, woodworking, and storytelling. The importance of educating coming generations can't be understated. The story of Native American peoples is the study of how America came to be. Many vacation companies, recognizing the value of history in education have organized tours of Native American sites, ancient villages, and recorded battles. And in an effort to preserve tribal customs and structures, many conservationist and archeological groups have organized in order to maintain Native American history.

Native American Nations is an online research site that provides copious information on the American Indians, including tribal history. On this site, you and your family can research various tribes to see in which ones you have an interest. Perhaps there are tribal sites near your home. Maybe a Native American historic destination is a weekend drive away. Pick a Native American tribe or history that interests your family, and learn about them. Then when you visit your selected site it will all the more rewarding, and you'll appreciate the people who first inhabited that land. (www.nanations.com)

At Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, North Carolina, guests take a step back to Cherokee life in 1759 to see authentic dwellings, traditional medicine, and chores like hulling canoes, crafting masks and pottery, basket weaving, and beadwork. Here nighttime brings storytelling that enraptures all who listen. The Village also hosts live reenactments, interactive demonstrations, “Hands-On Cherokee” arts and crafts classes, Villager outfit rentals for children, and evening storytelling performances.

Native American touring company, Go Native America (www.gonativeamerica.com), offers guided and self-guided tours that can last one day, one weekend, or two weeks. Their special family program allows families to get acquainted with Native American culture on their own using the Go Native American guidebook. The self-guided tour called Native Edventure Trails is designed to be completed in a day, but the planned tour's route is also flexible. Participants visiting at least three out of five listed stops are awarded prizes by tribal representatives. The guide book for the family self-guided tours is available online for children of varying ages. Along with tours, Go Native America offers lodging, buffalo dinner, and many other options.

One of the more well-known tours Go Native America offers is the Dances with Wolves tour. The movie showcased the Native American Lakota tribe in South Dakota. The tour takes participants to sites including the location of the film's winter scenes, and provides the background behind the movie.

The Little Big Horn tour takes guests to the site where Crazy Horse crossed the Little Bighorn River to converge with Custer, and describes the battle that unfolded afterwards. Guests can also take a ride on horseback on the actual Little Bighorn Battlefield. On such hallowed ground, the ride offers participants a look inside what the celebrated Lakota warriors saw on horseback in 1876.

Horse lovers love Go Native America's Wild Mustangs tour. When the army planned to kill Cheyenne and Crow Indian pony herds in an effort to stunt Native American nations, the ponies survived thanks to warriors who set them free in the Prior Mountains. The amazing descendents of the herds continue to roam free.

The Road to Wounded Knee tour is a sacred journey. Wounded Knee is where a massacre of 300 Native American men, women, and children took place in 1890. They were shot down as they surrendered; one can only wonder how it could have happened. Tour guides flank the tour with facts about the tragic event.

LODGING NEAR HISTORIC DESTINATIONS IN THE CENTRAL AND WESTERN UNITED STATES

  • River Cove Cabins (Murphy, North Carolina, near Cherokee), rustic riverfront cabins with kitchenettes, front porches, and rockers (www.rivercovecabin.com)

  • Holiday Inn Express (Rapid City, South Dakota), convenient to Wounded Knee with reasonable rates and is receptive to children (www.holidayinnexpress.com)

  • Boothill Inn and Suites (Billings, Montana, near Little Big Horn), about an hour from the Little Big Horn battlefield at the base of Billings's historic rimrocks (www.boothillinn.com)

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