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Heritage of Native New England

The Rich Heritage of Native New England

The Rich Heritage of Native New England

Heritage of Native New England

New England is one of the most abundant regions in the country when it comes to observing and preserving American history. Cities like Boston, Providence, Portsmouth, Lexington, and dozens of others feature countless homes, schools and churches that date back hundreds of years, in some cases 400 years.

Visitors can immerse themselves in history, reliving life in these states (and colonies) during the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, and even during the first days of European settlement in 1620. Every year, millions of tourists come to New England to experience this living history, especially New England’s claim as the birthplace of the American Revolution.

But what about history that goes back thousands of years? History that is equally rich in culture and tradition, even moreso. History that still shapes America in many ways today.

Native Americans lived and thrived on these lands for millennia before Europeans arrived in Plymouth. Tribes such as the Wampanoag, Mohegan, Pequot, Narragansett, Penobscot, and several others lived off the land, established trade networks, and developed their own languages, customs and beliefs.

Today, landmarks and museums preserve and honor this history throughout New England. While not nearly as well known or publicized as the Revolutionary War attractions, these Native American sites are growing in popularity, as more and more tourists discover and experience Native American culture that flourished for thousands of years.

Here are some of the very best Native American historic sites in New England today.

Plimoth Patuxet

Plimoth Patuxet Museum
Plimoth Patuxet Museum sign

A glimpse into the 17th century

Plimoth Patuxet, located in Plymouth, Massachusetts, is widely regarded as one of the best places to experience Native American history and culture. Notable not only for being the landing spot for the first European settlers on Plymouth Rock, and the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621, but for the incredibly rich and influential cultures those first settlers encountered, and who still have an impact on American society today.

The first thing visitors to Plimoth Patuxet want to see is usually the Living History Museum. This fascinating museum authentically recreates the 17th-century English and Native American settlement of Plymouth Colony. Visitors have the opportunity to step back in time and witness firsthand the interactions between the English colonists, representing the Pilgrims, and the Native Americans, specifically the Wampanoag people. The immersive experience allows tourists to engage with historical interpreters, ask questions, and gain a deeper understanding of the historic cultural exchange that took place centuries ago.

Plimoth Patuxet is committed to providing an accurate portrayal of Native American history from the Wampanoag perspective. Through guided tours, exhibits, and demonstrations, visitors learn about the traditions, customs, and daily life of the Wampanoag people. The museum actively collaborates with Wampanoag tribal members and incorporates their insights to ensure an authentic representation of their culture.

Tourists to Plimoth Patuxet also discover and learn all aspects of Wampanoag history and culture throughout the grounds. They can meet Native American interpreters who share their knowledge and skills. They can witness demonstrations of traditional activities like cooking, planting, fishing, and crafting, just as Native people did hundreds (if not thousands) of years ago. Powwows, festivals, storytelling sessions, and other community events are an immensely entertaining way to experience the vibrant heritage of the Wampanoag people firsthand. There is also a range of educational programs and workshops for visitors of all ages, making Plimoth Patuxet a popular destination for school field trips.

For history buffs, there is a wealth of artifacts, archaeological finds, and historical documents related to Native American history – all in pristine condition. Local guides are happy to educate guests on the background and significance of these ancient tools and artwork, and explain the story of the Wampanoag people and European colonists through historical artifacts.

Above all else, Plimoth Patuxet actively seeks collaboration with surrounding Indigenous communities and scholars to ensure accuracy and cultural sensitivity. By fostering ongoing dialogue, the museum remains committed to providing an inclusive and respectful representation of the Wampanoag tribe, and visitors can rest assured they are experiencing an authentic display and education of Native American history and culture.

Mohawk Trail

Mohawk Trail aerial view
Walking along the Mohawk Trail

An incredible journey through nature and history

The Mohawk Trail, also known as Route 2, is a scenic road that spans approximately 63 miles, starting from the Hudson and Mohawk River Valleys in New York to the Deerfield and Connecticut River Valleys in Western Massachusetts. In addition to its natural beauty, the trail also is home to numerous landmarks and attractions steeped in Native American history. Dedicated in 1914, it is also America’s first scenic tourist route, and is considered even today to be one of the most beautiful drives in all of North America.

The trail was originally a Native American trade route, used by tribes across what is now New England and New York states to transport goods. Tribes would also fish and hunt along the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers during the annual spring salmon runs. The 7,700 acre Mohawk Trail State Forest surrounds the trail, offering visitors today virtually limitless opportunities for camping, fishing and hiking.

For tourists seeking to fully experience the landmark’s full natural beauty, as well as geological, American and Native American history, these are some of the most notable attractions along the Mohawk Trail.

Hail to the Sunrise

Located in Mohawk Park in Charlemont, Massachusetts, this incredible bronze statue was completed in 1932. It depicts a life-size Native American man extending his arms to the sky, facing East as he faces the rising sun. He is said to be greeting the Great Spirit.

The statue sits on a boulder, surrounded by shallow water, upon which there is an inscription carved into a tablet shaped like an arrowhead. It reads: “Hail to the Sunrise – In Memory of the Mohawk Indian.”

Shelburne Falls

A quaint village located between the towns of Buckland and Shelburne on the Deerfield River, Shelburne Falls was once a treasured hunting and fishing grounds for several ancient Native tribes. Today, the town has turned its rich history into a terrific tourist attraction, with several museums, art galleries and shops.

The town also features more than 50 glacial potholes, a geological wonder created after the last glaciers in the region melted, causing the rushing water into the Deerfield River to carry with it vast amounts of rock and sediments, which swirled around, drilling holes into the granite. The potholes range from less than a foot in diameter to almost 40 feet. Most are located below the dam on the river.

Bridge of Flowers

The Bridge of Flowers, located within Shelburne Falls, is a pedestrian bridge that spans the Deerfield River and is adorned with a wide variety of colorful flowers. There is a viewing platform from which visitors can get a great look at the glacial potholes, located under a beautiful waterfall. It is open from April 1 through October 31.

Historic Deerfield

Historic Deerfield

Situated near the Mohawk Trail, Historic Deerfield is a step back in time to the 18th-century, an extraordinary village from colonial times brought to life. Visitors can take guided tours of historic architecture, and participate in all kinds of activities from that era. They can also visit the Flynt Center of Early New England, a 27,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art museum featuring extraordinary collections of both colonial and Native American heritage, particularly the Pocumtuck tribe.

Aquinnah Cultural Center

Aquinnah Cultural Center

Native American history in Martha’s Vineyard

Situated in Aquinnah, Massachusetts in the heart of Martha’s Vineyard, the Aquinnah Cultural Center showcases the rich history, art, and culture of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe. It offers interactive exhibits, workshops, and guided tours that provide a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Wampanoag people.

One of the things that makes the Center so special is their dedication to preserving and protecting their history, and the extraordinary degree to which members of the Wampanoag tribe are included in that effort. The Center maintains a central database containing countless oral histories offered by tribal members, a database only accessible by tribal members.

However, the Aquinnah Cultural Center also takes great pride in their educational and outreach activities that teach visitors about the tribe’s traditions, customs, and way of life. Tourists have the opportunity to learn about the tribe’s history, language, art, and craftsmanship through interactive exhibits, demonstrations, and storytelling. The Center is also home to numerous festivals, powwows, and other community activities in which visitors are welcome to partake in and enjoy.

Tribal members offer insights into their ancestral connection to the surrounding lands, and how it factors into their history – both before the arrival of European settlers and after. The Aquinnah area itself, where the cultural center is located, boasts breathtaking natural beauty that is still largely undisturbed. Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the cliffs and the Atlantic Ocean while partaking in the unique cultural Wampanoag experiences offered by the center.

For those with a great appreciation of the arts, the Aquinnah Cultural Center often hosts workshops and demonstrations where Native artisans showcase their traditional techniques such as pottery making, beadwork, basket weaving, and carving – even allowing visitors to learn firsthand these skills, create unique artwork and crafts on their own.

For those seeking a truly immersive Native American cultural and traditional experience, this is one of the best places in New England to do it.

Abbe Museum

A must-see Native American exhibit on Mt. Desert Island

The Abbe Museum has two locations, one located in Bar Harbor, Maine, and the other at Acadia National Park – a 47,000-acre Atlantic coast recreation area primarily on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, just southwest of Bar Harbor.

One of the premier Native American heritage centers in New England, the Abbe Museum is dedicated to preserving and promoting the history and culture of Maine’s Native American communities. Notably, the Abenaki, Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Nations. However, the museum primarily is dedicated to the Wabanaki tribes – known as the People of the Dawn.

People of the First Light, the core exhibit, is an astounding, interactive collection that shares more than 12,000 years of history of the Wabanaki people. The exhibit tells the remarkable, yet difficult, story of the Wabanaki through artifacts, historical records, photographs, artwork and interactive media. Visitors can truly immerse themselves in this rich history from an indigenous perspective.

The design of the exhibit was shaped by the work of Wabanaki artists who have been a part of the design process since the very first days of the museum’s concept. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a two-story sculptural ash tree that connects all the various sections of the exhibit.

Through careful curation, and collaboration with Wabanaki communities, scholars, and artists, the Abbe Museum is able to preserve and honor Indigenous people in their own histories, stories, and futures, correcting harmful representations of the past. The museum’s educational initiatives – widely utilized by local school districts – contribute to dispelling stereotypes and promoting cultural understanding.

Also, the museum, along with members of the Wabanaki Nations, hosts events that celebrate Wabanaki culture throughout the year. If you haven’t experienced one of the festivals, art shows or performances yet, you should plan to do so. You certainly won’t regret it.

Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum

Kearsarge Indian old illustration
Kearsarge Indian Museum

Learn to connect with nature and the environment

The Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum (MKIM) is situated on 12.5-acres of Abenaki homeland, in Warner, New Hampshire. One of the more naturally beautiful Native American museums in New England, the grounds include the Medicine Woods Trail, the Betsy Janeway Arboretum and an activity area with spectacular views of the Mink Hills. The museum’s primary purpose is to preserve and present the Native American heritage of the Northeastern Woodlands region.

The Medicine Woods Trail once was actually a local dump that museum founders Bud and Nancy Thompson completely renovated into a natural preserve and arboretum, which today showcases plants used by ancient Native Peoples for food, medicine, tools and dyes.

While the museum boasts an impressive collection of pristinely-preserved artifacts, crafts, pottery and other cultural items dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years, MKIM is mostly renowned for their living history demonstrations.

Live performances by indigenous dancers and storytellers, workshops on Native arts and crafts, as well as educational programs all are a central part of the MKIM experience – which seeks to bring Native history, traditions and culture to life. There are even interpretive trails all along the 100 acre property,

As the presence of the incredible arboretum would suggest, MKIM places a lot of emphasis on respect for the natural environment and its sacred connection to Native culture. Visitors explore the natural surroundings of the property, including the wide variety of plants and flowers, and how they were used by indigenous people for medicine, food and clothing. Above all else, visitors learn about the spiritual connection to nature, and are taught the ancient wisdom that all humanity is part of the sacred circle, so each one of us has a duty to act responsibly to protect the Earth for future generations.

Tantaquidgeon Museum

Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority

The world famous Mohegan Sun is more than a casino

It’s no surprise that many tourists visit Southeastern Connecticut throughout the year to experience one of the largest casinos in the world – the Mohegan Sun casino, operated by the Mohegan Tribe.

Mohegan Sun sits on 240 acres of the Mohegan reservation, along the banks of the Thames River in Uncasville, Connecticut. It has over 360,000 square feet of gambling space – featuring countless table games and slot machines – over 100,000 sq ft of meeting and function room space, over 130,000 sq ft of retail shopping and fine dining, as well as the 12,000-seat capacity Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Connecticut Sun. The casino also boasts a 55-foot indoor waterfall, the world’s largest (and incredible) indoor planetarium dome and the incomparable Wombi Rock, a glowing crystal mountain made of imported stone that serves as the focal point of Casino of the Sky.

It’s little surprise that the Mohegan Sun is one of the most popular casino enterprises anywhere in the world.

But what you may not know is that the Mohegan reservation is also home to the oldest Native American owned and operated museum in the United States – The Tantaquidgeon Museum, founded by members of the Tantaquidgeon family in 1931. Harold Tantaquidgeon (1904 – 1989) was chief of the Mohegan Tribe from 1950 to 1970.

The Tantaquidgeon Museum is an extraordinary heritage center that tells the story of the Mohegan people from ancient times to present day. Traditional Mohegan medicine objects can be found, including turtle shell rattles, as well as ancient artifacts such as dolls, beads and other artwork. There are also artifacts and tributaries to other Native tribes as well throughout the United States. For example, there is a Southwest Room of the small building featuring art, clothing and rugs from the Hopi and Navajo tribes.

The centerpiece of the museum is a complete replica of an ancient Mohegan village, featuring a wigwam, garden, fire pit and longhouse. There is a crushed-clamshell walking trail that features herb gardens, a dugout canoe, and small piles of stones used by Tribal members to mark sacred places such as burials. The Mohegan village replica won a preservation award from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation in 2013.

However, the best feature of the Tantaquidgeon Museum is the knowledgeable and friendly guides, who are happy to help visitors learn, understand and appreciate Mohegan history and traditions.

Be respectful

Remember that you are a visitor on Native lands

Remember, when visiting these Native American places, it’s essential to approach Native American cultures with respect, follow any guidelines or protocols provided, and be open to learning and understanding the perspectives of the indigenous communities. You are of course welcome, but be mindful you are visiting homelands that are considered sacred to the indigenous people who live there.

Enjoy your journey to Native New England!

Northern Rockies

Want to really get away?

The vast Native American lands of the Northern Rockies are waiting for you

Sometimes you just need a break.

While visiting big cities, giant amusement parks or crowded events may seem like a great vacation to some, others need a vacation where they can unplug, take in the Great American outdoors, and just – finally – relax.  Maybe even learn something new, and have an incredible cultural and spiritual experience to refresh your mind and spirit.

If this is you, it might be time to think about a trip to the Northern Rockies – namely the Native American homelands in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Idaho.  This region is not only known for its incredible national parks and stunning natural beauty, but also for its amazing geographic and cultural diversity.  Whether it’s the badlands, plains, soaring mountaintops, vast canyons or breathtaking glaciers, you won’t believe how much there is to see so relatively close together.  It’s a vacation you won’t ever forget (or likely want to leave).

So let’s get to it.  Here are the best Native places to visit in the Northern Rockies states, that you may not even know about.


Devil’s Tower

One of the most iconic natural monuments of the west, Devil’s Tower is a laccolithic butte standing 867 feet high in northeastern Wyoming.  It was the very first National Monument in the United States, dedicated in 1906 by President Teddy Roosevelt.

However, the history of the incredible structure far predates that.  Known as Bear Lodge by the Cheyenne, Crow, Arapaho, Lakota, Kiowa and other tribes for centuries, it was the spiritual epicenter of the area.  Countless indigenous ceremonies and services have taken place at the base of this tower, as tribal elders pass down stories about it from generation to generation.

One Crow tribe legend has it that a giant bear clawed the grooves into the mountainside while chasing two young women, after The Great Spirit grew the rock far out of the ground, so the women could escape the bear.  The two women still sit atop the tower, fearful of the bear should they ever come down.

Some interesting facts: The name “Devils Tower” actually comes from a misinterpretation, when white explorers misread Bear Lodge as “Bad Gods Tower.”  Also, the monument was featured in the 1977 Stephen Spielberg movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Today, the natural wonder remains a sacred site to the indigenous people that have lived in the region for centuries.  It is a place for worship, for paying tribute to the deceased, for celebrations of life and nature.  Tourists often come across these sacred rituals during their visit, such as the Sun Dance.  Others find cloths, art or other native items around the base of the monument, left as prayer offerings or in memoriam.  The small, colored bundles of cloth are the most commonly seen tributes around the base of Devils Tower, and are considered to be sacred.  So it is important that visitors not disturb them in any way,

Tourists may partake in one of the ranger-led programs, spend the night on the grounds camping, go hiking and or even climb to the top of Devils Tower.  In fact, more than 150 rock climbing routes have been established on Devils Tower and attracts rock climbers from all over the world, even though many tribe members consider climbing a desecration of the sacred site.  That is why Devils Tower closes to rock climbing every June, so tribes may practice their ceremonies in peace and without the distraction of climbers dangling from their sacred monument.

Wind River Indian Reservation

The seventh largest Native American Reservation in the continental United States has just about everything an outdoor adventurer or naturalist could possibly hope for.

Totaling a staggering 2.2 million acres, the Wind River Indian Reservation is home to no less than 240 lakes, and countless streams and rivers.  It is also home to thousands of members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes, along with the communities of the Arapaho, Crowheart, Ethete and Fort Washakie.  It is the only reservation in America where the government allowed Native Americans to choose their own land.

Wind River is mostly famous for two main outdoor enthusiast tourist attractions: the Absaroka Mountains and Boysen State Park. The Absaroka Mountains attract adventurers from around the globe, known mostly for hunting and fishing expeditions in the summers and skiing and snowmobiling in the winters.  The mountains themselves are volcanic breccia created from years of lava flows.

The Boysen Reservoir is considered a bucket list for avid fishermen, with game fish in abundance such as largemouth bass, bluegill, stonecat, black bullhead, mountain whitefish, lake trout and dozens of other species.

However, the reservation is rich in true Native experiences as well.

The Vore Buffalo Jump is one of the most historically significant archaeological sites of the region, a natural sinkhole that was used as a bison trap from about 1500 to 1800 A.D by at least five different tribes.  It has been said that over 10,000 bison were caught there.  It is open to the public during the summer months, and when it is, tourists can learn not only about the techniques the tribes used to trap bison, the food and other products they were able to use from the buffalo, but also the cultural and spiritual elements of the hunt as well.

Every summer, the Eagle Spirit Singers and Dancers – made up of Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho dancers – perform every Wednesday night through August 12 at the Museum of the American West in Lander.   Each performance begins with a grand entrance where the dancers enter the circle, followed by various styles of dance – traditional, fancy feather, grass, jingle dress, fancy shawl and hoop dancing.  You’ll learn about the dance styles, meet the dancers and the drum group.  Performances are free, and children and cameras are welcome.

The largest annual event on the reservation is Eastern Shoshone Indian Days, a three-day celebration traditionally held the last week of June at Fort Washakie powwow grounds.  Hundreds of dancers come together to compete for large prizes and the community enjoys traditional Native arts, food and games.  The event features one of the largest powwows in the region and a reenactment of the signing of the Treaty of 1868.


Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the continental United States, and becoming more popular by the day.  Last year over 3 million people visited the park, a number that is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.

As the name suggests, the park is home to 25 active glaciers – one of the only places you can see glaciers in the United States outside of Alaska.  With over 200 gorgeous lakes, waterfalls and just about every landscape you can imagine across 1,600 square miles, Glacier National Park is a must see for any outdoor or nature enthusiast.

The land has traditionally been the home of the Blackfeet, or Blackfoot, tribe.  The Blackfeet are divided into three bands – the Piegan, the Blood and the Siksika – and hunted bison on these lands for centuries.  Tensions between the Blackfeet and the United States government have existed for well over 100 years, after the park was established in the late nineteenth century and Blackfeet rights to access the mountains – which they consider sacred and the backbone of the world – were stripped, along with hunting and fishing rights.

However, over the decades, relations between park officials and the tribe have improved, and tribal members welcome visitors onto their reservation and offer tours of Glacier National Park from the Blackfeet perspective – explaining in detail the wildlife and plantlife on the preserve, and how their ancestors used them for medicine and food.  Each summer, tourists are treated to an extensive series of presentations and performances by members of the Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai and Kalispel tribes.  Today, approximately 10,000 Blackfeet live within the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

For many visitors, the highlight of the park is the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a jaw-dropping 50 mile, paved two-lane highway that spans the width of Glacier National Park going east and west.  In 1983 Going-To-The-Sun Road was included in the National Register of Historic Places and in 1985 was made a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

The road gives the visitor a spectacular view of everything from glaciers, to forests, to lakes to windswept tundra.  Scenic viewpoints and stops are lined up throughout the road in both directions, so drivers can stop for extended views and photos.  For example, on the road’s east side, tourists can witness the park’s disappearing glaciers on the Jackson Glacier Overlook.  On the west side of the road, visitors get a great look at Bird Woman Falls, a 560 foot waterfall over a hanging valley left behind by a tributary glacier that had since receded.

Medicine Wheel

The Medicine Wheel, located in the Bighorn National Forest on the western peak of Medicine Mountain, is one of the most fascinating ancient archaeological finds in North America.

While scientists have discovered dozens of medicine wheels throughout the great plains and Canada (anywhere from 70 to 150), the Bighorn Medicine Wheel is the most famous and well preserved.  It was one of the first to be scientifically and archaeologically studied, and continues to be to this day,

The Medicine Wheel is roughly 75 feet in diameter, with circular alignment of rocks extending from the center.  From an aerial view it looks similar to an old wagon wheel.  Researchers believe that evidence found at the site dates it back nearly 7,000 years to the prehistoric era.  Artifacts unearthed in and around the wheel identify with the Shoshone and Crow tribes from the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

The exact usage of the Bighorn Medicine Wheel is still largely unknown, but it is clear that it has been sacred Native American grounds for millennia.  Several ancient ceremonial staging areas, medicinal and ceremonial plant gathering areas, sweat lodge sites, altars and fasting enclosures are in plain sight close by.  Many tourists who make the trek up to the hallowed ground speak of being able to feel the spiritual power of the Medicine Wheel, and a connection to the ancient people who worshiped there.

Little Bighorn National Monument

Known mostly as Custer Battlefield National Monument until 1991, Little Bighorn National Monument is pretty much what you’d expect: a tribute to the fallen Lakotas and Cheyennes who defeated Lt. Col. George A. Custer’s US Army 7th Cavalry in one of the most famous, and last, victorious Native counter offensives to preserve their way of life.   Originally preserved to protect the graves of the U.S. soldiers who died there, the historical site has since shifted from once only paying tribute to Custer and his fallen troops to incorporating the tribes’ perspective and sacrifices in the conflict, to tell the true history of the battle.

In the late nineteenth century, after news of the discovery of gold on Sioux land spread, Custer and his troops were sent in to drive them further off of their land in violation of a peace treaty between the United States and the Sioux.

Custer was ordered only to contain the Native tribes until reinforcements arrived. However the over-confident Custer decided to fight the Sioux on his own.  On June 25 and 26th of 1876, Custer, along with the entire 7th Cavalry were decimated by an estimated three thousand Indian warriors, led by Chief Crazy Horse.

North Dakota

Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park

An often overlooked tourist destination is Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, the oldest state park in North Dakota.  The park is a portal traveling back in time, a way to experience first hand what life was like for Native Americans and US soldiers alike in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The land was once home to Mandan Native Americans who lived at On-a-Slant Village for an estimated 200 years, near the base of the Heart River with the Missouri River.  Roughly 1000 Mandan Natives lived in an estimated 75-100 earth lodges before a 1781 smallpox epidemic nearly wiped them out.

The site has preserved important archeological artifacts of the original On-a-Slant Village.  The Visitor Center Museum is also a tremendous resource to learn all about Mandan life and culture, while the park offers interactive experiences such as interpretive tours, visiting one of five reconstructed earth lodges or camping for the night in a real tipi.

Of course, Fort Abraham Lincoln was also where a military post was established to provide a base of operations for the US Army’s ongoing campaigns against the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne nations between 1876 and 1877.  Abandoned in 1891, the remnants of the fort are still well preserved, as tourists can peek inside furnished barracks or officer quarters and gain an understanding of what life was like for the soldiers living there.

The park offers over 100 campsites as well, so visitors can take in the breathtaking natural beauty of the sacred site, whether it is the incredible views of the Heart and Missouri Rivers at sunrise or the crystal clear skies at night.

Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site

Another great site to experience Native American history first hand, the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site features a fully restored earth lodge, a Hidatsa garden, and village sites where tourists can see the archaeological remains of the Awatixa Xi’e Village, Awatixa Village and the Big Hidatsa village, which was established around 1600 (although Awatixa Xi’e is believed to be the oldest village).

The site preserves the historic and archaeological remnants of bands of Hidatsa, Northern Plains Indians along what once was a major trading outpost.  The exhibits feature artifacts recovered from the village sites as well as decorative arts of Northern Plains Indians.  There are also several incredible trails, including one that runs along the Knife River.

White Horse Hill National Game Preserve

One of the most extraordinary big game reserves anywhere in the United States, the 1,674-acre White Horse Hill National Game Preserve on the south shores of Devils Lake is a must see for any outdoors enthusiast.

One of the most popular attractions in North Dakota, over 80,000 tourists visit each year to witness American bison, elk, black-tailed prairie dogs, and other wildlife up close, not to mention the vast eco-community that includes oak, ash, basswood, and aspen woodlands, mixed-grass prairie, and interspersed wetlands.  More than 250 species of birds have been recorded at the Preserve as well, making the preserve a destination for hikers and bird-watchers year-round.

Most tourists prefer to hike, take photographs and explore the preserve on their own, but for others there are auto tours, and several other opportunities for visitors and school outings to learn about the animals and natural wonders from trained and knowledgeable staff.


Nez Perce National Historical Park

White Bird Battlefield National Park Area

There are five federally recognized Native American tribes in Idaho: Nez Perce, Kootenai, Shoshone-Bannock, Shoshone-Paiute, and Coeur d’Alene.  All reservations are worth a visit, as all go to great lengths to preserve and teach their history and culture for future generations, often in the midst of incredible natural beauty and world class entertainment.  But if you are seeking true adventure and history, there is one park that cannot be overlooked.

The Nez Perce National Historical Park comprises 38 discontiguous sites spanning three main ecoregions, across the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.  These are the traditional lands of the Nez Perce people, and the 38 sites have been designated to commemorate the stories, culture and history of the Nez Perce over the centuries.  The park’s headquarters is located in Spalding, Idaho.

This includes sites associated with the Nez Perce War of 1877, and the flight of Chief Joseph and his band, who in June 1877 migrated from Oregon in an attempt to avoid capture in Canada after fighting against relocation. They were pursued relentlessly by the U.S. Army and fought several battles against them during the Nez Perce War, when the Nez Perce reservation was reduced to one-tenth its original size and Tribal members were evicted from their homeland and forced to relocate onto a new reservation.  The war eventually ended with Chief Joseph’s surrender in the Montana Territory.

First, “Nez Perce” is a bit of a misnomer.  The actual name of the tribe, what they called themselves, is “Nimi’ipuu”, translated in Sahaptin as ‘we, the people’.  However, French-Canadian fur trappers translated the name as “pierced nose” despite the fact that the tribe did not pierce their noses.  Still, the French “Nezz Purse” name remained, all the way to the present day.

The best place to start your visit is the National Historic Museum and Visitor Center located 10 miles east of Lewiston, Idaho.  This is an excellent resource to learn all about the tribe and its unique history, art and culture, not to mention the tribe’s advancements in ranching and agriculture technology that rivals any civilization of its era.  Park staff also provide tours and talks that include museum tours and tipi pitching.

55 miles east of the Visitors Center is the historic Heart of the Monster, a 53 acre site sacred to the Nez Perce people within the breathtaking Clearwater River valley.  According to legend, Iceye’ye (Coyote) killed a large monster along the Clearwater River, thus creating the different tribes in the region, including the Nimiipuu. A rock formation in the area is said to represent the heart of the monster described in the legend.

This site has an interpretive shelter with two exhibits and an audio program. These give you the background information on the role of legends in Nez Perce culture and tell part of the “Coyote and the Monster” legend in Nez Perce and in English. A short trail leads to the “Heart of the Monster” feature and a small semi circle of seating.

Another great way to explore the reservation is to take a trip down the river to Buffalo Eddy, and witness the petroglyphs left behind by Nez Perce ancestors thousands of years ago.  There are two groups of rock formations with several petroglyphs on both sides of the Snake River. One side is in Washington and one side is in Idaho.

In Idaho, there are several other sites of the reservation that are well worth the visit as well.

The Ant and Yellowjacket were arguing over who had the right to sit on a particular rock to enjoy some Salmon when they got into an argument. Coyote asked them to stop. They continued to fight despite Coyote’s warnings, so Coyote turned them into a stone arch.  The Ant and Yellowjacket monument is a popular stop for amateur and professional photographers alike.

Weis Rockshelter was the home of prehistoric ancestors of the Nez Perce, which dates as far as back as 8,000 years ago.  The shelter is not a cave, but a small niche in a wall of basalt. The shelter was continuously inhabited until about 600 years ago.

The White Bird Battlefield is the location of the first battle of the Nez Perce Flight of 1877, or more accurately, the first battle of the Nez Perce War.  US Captain David Perry and his cavalry troops moved into the canyon to attack the Nez Perce who were sheltering in one of their winter villages. The soldiers encountered a peace party of six Nez Perce warriors carrying a white flag riding towards them.

When the peace party was shot at, The Nez Perce charged and the U.S. cavalry was decimated. The victorious Nez Perce then began their long walk to find safety and sanctuary.  A self-guided walking tour of the battlefield is recommended to learn more about the people and tactics used in the conflict.