Progress Made In Developing Tourism In Indian Country

Oct 8, 2018

Sites like Sacajawea's grave could be good tourist destinations on Wind River Reservation. But there may also be disagreement between the two tribes over how much access to offer to sacred sites like these.
Credit USFWS Mountain-Prairie

The federal government recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding document, agreeing to support efforts to develop tourism opportunities in Indian Country. 

Camille Ferguson, the director of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, said the U.S. Department of Commerce will inject about $4.5 million into tourism on reservations in coming years. 

Ferguson said tourists are more than happy to travel the distance to reach reservations.

“They don’t want to go to another metropolitan place,” she said. “They do want to see the authentic people and the beautiful landscapes and, not only that, but learn about the stories of those landscapes.”

Eastern Shoshone councilman Leslie Shakespeare sits on the organization’s board. He said because Wind River Reservation in Wyoming has two federally recognized tribes, agreeing on the best way to develop tourism is sometimes a slow process.

“[The tribes] usually don’t have the same goals and sometimes if we do, we have different ideas of how to attain those goals,” said Shakespeare.

Wind River is a beautiful reservation, right on the route to Wyoming’s national parks, but Shakespeare said that it will be important to get buy-in from tribal elders.

“Is this area culturally significant to one tribe or the other? If it is, are we able to remediate that? If not, pick another place,” said Shakespeare. “I know we have some prime fishing areas. Bull Lake, we have Mocassin Lake, we have St. Lawrence Basin that are really nice destination areas that a lot of people don’t know about.”

Shakespeare said currently the two tribes are in the planning and discussing phase, and are looking at ideas like creating recreation areas and cultural centers.