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5 Places to Experience Native American Culture

New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Washington, D.C.

5 Places to Experience Native American Culture

Nach: Valerie Conners

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  • States:
    New Mexico
    Arizona
    Oklahoma
    Washington, D.C.

Across the United States, an effort is continually made to preserve and share the storied and often tragic history of Native Americans in North America.

Indigenous cultures on the continent have thrived for thousands of years, and visitors have the opportunity to learn about them by viewing exhibits, visiting living history museums, attending events, exploring ancient sites and talking with Native Americans. Here are five premier places and events in the United States where you can experience Native American culture.

National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian

Washington, D.C.

Mandy Jansen/Flickr

The first national museum in the United States dedicated solely to Native American heritage, the National Museum of the American Indian, highlights over 12,000 years of history across more than 1,200 indigenous cultures. The museum features one of the world's most expansive collections of American Indian arts, artifacts, and photographic and media archives. Permanent exhibitions delve into native religions and ceremonies, as well as native communities' contemporary struggle for identity. Located on Washington, D.C.'s National Mall in a curved limestone building designed to represent a rock formation, the NMAI regularly hosts cultural festivals, concerts and symposia. At the museum's Mitsitam Native Foods Café, visitors can eat indigenous and contemporary cuisine from across the Americas such as tortillas and buffalo burgers.

Cherokee Heritage Center

Tahlequah, Oklahoma

In the foothills of Oklahoma's Ozark Mountains lies the 18-hectare Cherokee Heritage Center, dedicated to preserving the culture and artifacts of the Cherokee tribe. Walk through Diligwa, a living history exhibit that depicts a 1710 Cherokee village and allows visitors to experience craft-making demonstrations, storytelling and daily life in the early 18th century. Next, visit the center's representation of a late 19th-century rural Cherokee village, Adams Corner. Don't miss the Trail of Tears exhibit, which delves into the forced removal of Cherokees from their ancestral lands in the 1830s to what is now present-day Oklahoma. The center also offers cultural classes that promote traditional Cherokee arts, such as pottery and basketry, and holds annual art shows featuring traditional and contemporary Cherokee works.

Gathering of Nations

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Billed as the largest powwow in North America, the annual Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, attracts thousands of indigenous people representing hundreds of tribes. The multiday event's festivities celebrate and promote Native American cultural heritage. Highlights include traditional song, dance and drumming competitions, which feature over 3,000 performers representing more than 500 North American tribes. Attendees can also buy paintings, jewelry and pottery from more than 800 Native American artisans, and eat traditional foods like fry bread, deep-fried quick bread served with honey or taco toppings.

Taos Pueblo

Taos, New Mexico

Learn about ancient pueblo life, culture and history at Taos Pueblo, which has been continuously inhabited by members of the Taos tribe for more than 1,000 years. Set against a backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this UNESCO World Heritage site centers around the San Geronimo chapel and two large multistory buildings constructed in typical pueblo style with mud and straw. Today, nearly 150 people call the pueblo home, and visitors can take guided tours, learning about the village’s culture, history and people.

Heard Museum

Phoenix, Arizona

Kevin Spencer/Flickr

The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, exhibits ancient artifacts and contemporary art and is dedicated to preserving the culture and heritage of Native Americans in the Southwestern United States. About 44,000 objects, including Navajo textiles, Zuni jewelry and contemporary Indian art, comprise its collection. Noteworthy exhibits include an acquisition from former U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of more than 430 Hopi Indian kachina dolls. Take a free guided tour and check the events calendar to attend educational classes or the museum's annual arts expo, the Indian Fair and Market.

Outside view of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Outside view of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
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Mandy Jansen/Flickr

Cherokee Heritage Center

Tahlequah, Oklahoma

In the foothills of Oklahoma's Ozark Mountains lies the 18-hectare Cherokee Heritage Center, dedicated to preserving the culture and artifacts of the Cherokee tribe. Walk through Diligwa, a living history exhibit that depicts a 1710 Cherokee village and allows visitors to experience craft-making demonstrations, storytelling and daily life in the early 18th century. Next, visit the center's representation of a late 19th-century rural Cherokee village, Adams Corner. Don't miss the Trail of Tears exhibit, which delves into the forced removal of Cherokees from their ancestral lands in the 1830s to what is now present-day Oklahoma. The center also offers cultural classes that promote traditional Cherokee arts, such as pottery and basketry, and holds annual art shows featuring traditional and contemporary Cherokee works.

Exhibit the in the Cherokee Heritage Center.

Exhibit the in the Cherokee Heritage Center.
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Gathering of Nations

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Billed as the largest powwow in North America, the annual Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, attracts thousands of indigenous people representing hundreds of tribes. The multiday event's festivities celebrate and promote Native American cultural heritage. Highlights include traditional song, dance and drumming competitions, which feature over 3,000 performers representing more than 500 North American tribes. Attendees can also buy paintings, jewelry and pottery from more than 800 Native American artisans, and eat traditional foods like fry bread, deep-fried quick bread served with honey or taco toppings.

The Gathering of Nations is the largest powwow in North America.

The Gathering of Nations is the largest powwow in North America.
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Taos Pueblo

Taos, New Mexico

Learn about ancient pueblo life, culture and history at Taos Pueblo, which has been continuously inhabited by members of the Taos tribe for more than 1,000 years. Set against a backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this UNESCO World Heritage site centers around the San Geronimo chapel and two large multistory buildings constructed in typical pueblo style with mud and straw. Today, nearly 150 people call the pueblo home, and visitors can take guided tours, learning about the village’s culture, history and people.

Heard Museum

Phoenix, Arizona

The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, exhibits ancient artifacts and contemporary art and is dedicated to preserving the culture and heritage of Native Americans in the Southwestern United States. About 44,000 objects, including Navajo textiles, Zuni jewelry and contemporary Indian art, comprise its collection. Noteworthy exhibits include an acquisition from former U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of more than 430 Hopi Indian kachina dolls. Take a free guided tour and check the events calendar to attend educational classes or the museum's annual arts expo, the Indian Fair and Market.

Artifacts on display in Phoenix's Heard Museum.

Artifacts on display in Phoenix's Heard Museum.
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Kevin Spencer/Flickr

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