Tourism in Indian Country…what does that bring to mind? White tourists looking at baubles, bangles and bright shiny beads? The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, or AIANTA, thinks it’s so much more than that. The organization was formed in 1993 to help tribes recognize that cultural tourism could help preserve traditions.
Camille Ferguson, who is Tlingit Indian and belongs to the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, says AIANTA is the mechanism used to teach tribes. “We have been working towards helping out tribes with development of their tourism programs by providing technical resources and building a huge network for those who are looking to start tourism, enhance their program or expand their program,” Fergusons said.
AIANTA has broadened its scope by partnering with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the National Parks Service.
“We have a cooperative agreement and that cooperative agreement is put in place because the BIA can't physically carry out the duties that are needed to help tribes grow tourism in Indian Country,” Ferguson said.
The National Parks Service also benefits from having a relationship with AIANTA.
“We work collectively together on projects and one of the projects we just finished up was The American Indian Civil Wars. It’s a book on the history of the American Indian and how they played a part in the Civil War. That book goes into the national parks and also as an educational piece for tribal schools. It gives an opportunity to tell the tribal side of the story.”
Ferguson said the book caused many tribes to want to relate their part in the Civil War, so many in fact that a future project may be with the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) to house these stories.
The conference will bring many of these organizations together in one place to teach workshops, such as a workshop on intellectual property and how to safeguard the stories and art of tribes. It will also be a good place for tribes to network and see some of Oklahoma’s tribal developments. The National Geographic Society and the Smithsonian will also be present, as well as representatives from the National Museum of the American Indian.
Many Oklahoma tribal chiefs and some government representatives, such as U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, are scheduled to speak. The American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism Association’s Conference will be held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa September 22nd through the 26th.
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