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Visiting Tribal Lands

Visiting Tribal Lands

Is it possible to visit an Indian Reservation?

Whether you’re a non-Native resident or visiting from another country, exploring the continental USA is incomplete for a lot of people without experiencing Indigenous Tribal Culture firsthand.

There are 573 federally recognized Native American (including American Indian and Alaska Native) tribes and villages in the USA. “Indian Country” is the most common term for Native American homelands in all states except Alaska. These tribal entities have a formally recognized government-to-government relationship with the US. There are 60 additional state-recognized tribes (which allow for some self-determination at a state-only level).

(*Native Hawaiians are not considered to be Native Americans, as they are a unique people with Polynesian origins rather than the ancient Siberian homelands of the Native American ancestors. Hawaiian tribal areas are known as Hawaiian Home Lands*).

What is Indian Country?

Native American reservations, trust lands, and communities are self-governed.


  • have their own designated lands.
  • make and enforce their own laws.
  • license and regulate activities within their jurisdictions.

More than 56 million acres of US land comprise Indian Country, and this area is spread across 326 unique lands including reservations, pueblos, villages, and rancherias.

Not all federally recognized tribes have reservations. While some reservations represent the tribe’s ancestral lands, others were created by the federal government in the 1800s to forcibly remove and resettle Native Americans off their ancestral homelands.

The Navajo Nation Reservation is the largest, with 16 million acres stretching across parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The smallest is the cemetery of the Pit River Tribe in California, covering just 1.3 acres.

Visiting Reservations

While some tribes prefer to not welcome tourism, many American Indian reservations and villages do welcome visitors and may offer historical, cultural, and recreational sites as well as events they share with the public.

Some Indian Country is widely open to visitors, while some tribes require that visitors to their lands register at a tribal office. Others are closed to non-residents.

Some of the Indian Country that welcomes visitors includes:

  • Navajo Nation - the Navajo are renowned for their hospitality to visitors. Tourists can hire a Navajo guide to visit non-publicly accessible sacred lands, including tribal sites in Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon. Navajo Nation capital Wind Rock, Arizona, hosts the annual week-long Navajo Nation Fair in September. Other attractions include Jurassic-era dinosaur tracks, ancient Anasazi ruins, and more.


  • The Cherokee Nation was one of those most displaced by the Trail of Tears. Though their ancestral lands were in Georgia’s Southern Appalachian Mountains, today this progressive, proud Nation covers 14 Oklahoma counties. Tourists can visit the Cherokee National History Museum and the Cherokee Art Market.


  • Oconaluftee Indian Village is an opportunity to step back in time to the 1700s with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina. (They are a different Cherokee sovereign nation from the abovementioned Oklahoma Cherokee Nation). The only federally recognized Native American tribe in North Carolina, their home is on the Qualla Boundary in five Western North Carolina counties and at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This Village lets visitors explore historical buildings, enjoy traditional dancing, and more.


  • Wind River Reservation is home to the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes. Situated in southwest Wyoming, visitors can discover the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway from Shoshoni to Thermopolis, the world’s largest mineral hot spring; camp at Gannett Peak; visit Sacajawea’s grave in Fort Washakie; and attend the reservation’s Eastern Shoshone Indian Days in June, which presents a collective pow wow, a rodeo, historical reenactments, and more.


  • Standing Rock Sioux Reservation is the US’s fifth-largest Indian reservation. Noted for bald eagles soaring in the skies, its visitors are invited to drive the 86-mile Standing Rock National Native American Scenic Byway, with a visit to the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center. Visit the Sitting Bull Monument at the Klein Museum in Mobridge.


  • Grand Canyon West Rim is the home of the Hualapai Tribe, who have jurisdiction over this area. Spending money here directly benefits the tribe and attractions include the Zipline, Skywalk, Hualapai Point trading post, traditional cuisine, Eagle Point and Guano Point lookouts, Colorado River rafting, and more.


  • Miccosukee Village: originally members of the Creek Nation, the Miccosukee descend from a small group who refused to surrender during wars and instead migrated to Florida, sheltering in the Everglades. The Miccosukee Village is located 25 miles west of Miami and visitors have a diverse range of options including Everglades airboat rides with Native hunters, fishers, and froggers as guides; mounting a live Florida alligator (!); visiting a traditional Miccosukee camp; and the Miccosukee Museum.


  • Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy or the League of Nations comprises the Seneca, Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Tuscarora Tribes and these are separately located throughout upstate New York, Wisconsin, Ontario, and Quebec. Attractions are diverse and include (but are not limited to) the Annual Iroquois Festival at the Howes Cave, New York Iroquois Museum over Labor Day weekend; the Seneca Iroquois National Museum (Salamanca, New York); and the Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, New York.


  • Chickasaw Country: this Nation has jurisdictional territory in Oklahoma; the tribe migrated throughout Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. Visitors can explore the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma and the Exhibit C Gallery in Oklahoma City. The Chickasaw Heritage Trail is located in Tupelo, Mississippi. (Yes, Elvis Presley’s birthplace). Once one of the great Native American tribes of the Southeast, the Chickasaw called Tupelo its homeland until the exodus forced in 1837 by the Indian Removal Act. The Chickasaw Trail explores how life was for these people and includes the Chief Piomingo Statue, Natchez Trace Parkway Visitor Center, the Chickasaw Village Site, the site of the Battle of Ackia, the Chief Tishomingo Historic Site, and more.


  • The Organized Village of Kasaan, 30 miles southwest of Ketchikan, Alaska, was originally Tlingit territory and has been home to Haida residents since the early 1700s. Tourists are welcome to enjoy Kasaan’s Totems Historic District, Chief Son-i-Hat Whale House, which is a restored traditional Haida longhouse, and various other oceanside cultural attractions.

Just a few other Native American sites to visit include:

  • Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation (Florida Everglades)
  • Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas (Livingston, Texas)
  • Crow Canyon Archaeological Center (Cortez, Colorado)
  • Mesa Verde National Park (Cortez, Colorado)
  • Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (Dolores, Colorado)
  • Hovenweep National Monument (Colorado)
  • Sand Creek Massacre Site (Eads, Colorado)
  • Plains Conservation Center (Aurora, Colorado)
  • Osage Nation Reservation (Pawhuska, Oklahoma)

Visitor Etiquette

Regardless of which tribal lands you intend to visit, there is etiquette to be followed. Visitors are considered to be guests and are expected to respect residents’ privacy, pay attention to signage, and abide by all tribal laws, rules, and regulations while there.

  • Know whose land you’re on. Research the community whose lands you are visiting - and their history - before you go. If unsure, also contact the nation or tribe to ensure they are welcoming visitors at the time you intend to visit. Visit the local cultural center.


  • We should not need to say it, but visitors should not expect to see Native Americans dressed in cultural regalia unless for ceremonial purposes, nor do they live in traditional dwellings (teepees, longhouses, etc).


  • Approximately one-third of federally recognized American Indian tribes have gambling operations – but there are many far richer, more authentic ways to experience Indian Country instead (or as well).


  • Some reservations ban or strongly discourage alcohol consumption.


  • Some reservations restrict photography. Always ask permission before taking photos, videos, audio recordings, and even sketching.


  • Never disturb a devotion or offering – bundles, ties, coloured flags, food offerings, pipes, etc. Do not climb on walls or other tribal building structures, nor should you disturb plants, rocks, animals, artifacts, pottery shards, etc. Do not touch or remove artifacts as souvenirs. These belong to the land and its people. Ask about objects that spark your interest, but don’t touch. These are federally protected by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act – violations can result in harsh penalties.


  • At ceremonies, observe respectfully. Do not speak to ceremonial dancers, and never pick up a ceremonial object that has been dropped. Never walk across a pow-wow arena during a dance. Don’t applaud ceremonial dances. At Hopi dances, men and women sit separately.


  • Listen when elders are speaking.


  • Dress modestly and neatly and behave appropriately, including speech. Never litter.


  • Unless specifically stipulated, religious ceremonies, burial grounds, and spiritual teachings are considered sacred and not for public consumption.


  • Drive carefully, especially between dusk and dawn. A lot of reservation land is open range with horses, cattle, goats, and sheep herds moving freely along roads.


  • Support the tribe by investing in local, tribal-owned businesses including accommodations and dining where possible, as well as purchasing authentically-Native-made arts and crafts.


Experience the United States of America’s rich culture as epitomised by those who have been here the longest. From the carved totems and traditionally igloo-dwelling Inuit of Alaska to the traditional buffalo herders of the Northern Great Plains to the adobe Pueblos of the Southwest and many more across the entire USA, Native American culture is very diverse and very much alive.

A Note on Purchasing Native American Goods

You should always strive to purchase genuine Native American arts, crafts, jewelry, and similar items. Avoid buying fraudulent pieces!

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act dictates that all art and craft products must be truthfully marketed regarding the Native heritage and tribal affiliation of the silversmith, artisan, or craftsperson.

To ensure authenticity, request a written guarantee or verification, check for the silversmith’s unique hallmark on jewelry, and get a detailed receipt that includes the price and the maker’s name and their tribal affiliation. Understand too that you get what you pay for, and genuine, quality handmade pieces will possibly be expensive. If a price is extremely cheap or “too good to be true’, questions need to be asked.

Indian Traders is extremely proud to work with authentic Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi silversmiths and other American Indian artisans, and every sale of our Native American jewelry helps support the southwest communities to which they belong.