Cowboys and Indians – A Guide to Native American Culture

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Native American History

Thousands of years before Juan Ponce de Leon set foot in Florida, Native American cultures flourished throughout the United States. According to anthropologists, America’s original inhabitants crossed an isthmus that once connected Russia and the U.S. over 12,000 years ago.

The settlers migrated from Eurasia and arrived in the U.S. in three migratory waves. As they dispersed across the land, Native Americans modified their clothing, diets and lodgings in response to the environment that they encountered. The U.S. has 564 Native American tribes with distinct cultures and languages. There are several popular Native American cultural attractions in the U.S. Many locations offer hiking, fishing, horseback riding and other outdoor activities.

Native Americans (1)
Native Americans (1)

National Museum of the American Indian

Holidaymakers can start their exploration of Native American culture at the National Museum of the American Indian. The Smithsonian Institution has facilities in New York City, Suitland, Maryland and Washington D.C. that exhibit Native American cultural traditions from the Western Hemisphere. Visitors can view thousands of photographs, sculptures, ceramics, household items and other ancient artefacts. The expansive collection also features oral histories, videos and photographs.

National Museum of the American Indian (2)
National Museum of the American Indian (2)

Alaska Native Heritage Centre

The Alaska Native Heritage Centre in Anchorage introduces visitors to the indigenous tribes that reside in the state. The cultural centre offers interactive tours and live performances by artists, storytellers and dancers. Visitors can toss spears and tour ancient homesteads.

Alaska Native Heritage Centre (3)
Alaska Native Heritage Centre (3)

Big Cypress Reservation

The Big Cypress Reservation is home to the Seminole Tribe in Clewiston, Florida. Visitors can tour the Everglades in swamp buggies or airboats with experienced guides. The tribe invites guests to hear native folklore beside roaring campfires. After a busy day, holidaymakers can spend the night in Seminole chickees, which means house in the native language. The rustic thatched-roof building does not have electricity or running water. The reservation has a 465-square-meter museum with 20,000 artefacts where members of the tribe share their talents in arts and crafts workshops.

Big Cypress Reservation (4)
Big Cypress Reservation (4)

Blackfeet Indian Reservation

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful settings in the country. The reservation is located in Browning, Montana near Glacier Park. The tribe’s name is attributed to their practice of darkening their moccasins. Visitors can stay overnight in tepees and enjoy traditional dishes that feature antelope and buffalo. Local artisans can create customized beadwork, moccasins, shields and other items. Outdoor adventurers can take guided horseback tours and enjoy excellent fly-fishing with experienced Native American outfitters.

Blackfeet Indian Reservation (5)
Blackfeet Indian Reservation (5)

Fort Apache Historic Park

The White Mountain Apache Tribe in Whiteriver, Arizona invites holidaymakers to tour Fort Apache Historic Park. The site contains remnants of Zuni and Hopi villages that date back to 1400 A.D. Visitors can explore 27 historic buildings that were constructed during the Apache Wars in the mid-1870s. The cultural centre and museum displays historic beadwork, basketry, clothing and photographs.

Navajo Nation

The Navajo Nation encompasses more than 70,000 square kilometres and extends inside the borders of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Holidaymakers can visit 900-year-old cliff dwellings and museums that share the traditions, art and language of the Navaho people. There is a museum dedicated to the famous code talkers of World War II. In addition to traditional lodging options, guests can stay in Navajo hogans, octagonal-shaped, one-room houses. The structures do not have electricity or running water.

Navajo Nation (6)
Navajo Nation (6)

Recommended Packing List

Holidaymakers who want to stay overnight in a hogan, tipi or wigwam should pack flashlights, towels, personal toiletry and other comfort items. All travellers should pack comfortable, enclosed shoes and casual clothing that is appropriate for the activities and climate. Other essential items include sunscreen, insect repellent, hats and sunglasses.

If you are planning on camping outside for an extended period of time other basic items such as a multi tool can be useful if you need to make your own fires, adjust camping equipment or open tinned and vacuum packed foods.

In order to save time and money you can usually combine your shopping efforts by getting everything you need in a single superstore. Remember most large stores that sell toiletry items usually have a gift for him section that carry multi tools and other outdoor equipment.

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One Response

  1. Bob Yray

    These are basic simple things to think about. Your camping equipment needs will vary depending on where you will be camping. Camping on the beach has different needs then camping in the mountains. You should always start your foray into camping small. Take a day trip somewhere close to your home. Check out the surroundings and the camp sites. Get an understanding of what the equipment needs will be.”

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