There are many ways that you can immerse yourself in Native American culture today. From festivals to travelling to Native American locales, it all depends on what you are interested in. You do need to be careful though, because there are many places who claim to be part of the Native American experience who actually have no ties to this culture at all. So where does one go to experience authentic Native American culture today?
It really depends on what you are interested in. Are you drawn to a certain tribe and their practices? Or are you a lover of the Arts? Or maybe you want to experience the food and dress of Native Americans. There are many tribes and Native American alliances now who offer a taste of their culture through public gatherings or Pow wow’s.
Originally a Pow wow was meant for the gathering of Native American tribes to share news, dancing, singing and visiting each other. Today some of these Pow wows are put on for the public to experience the rich culture of Native Americans as well as to raise awareness of their culture.
One area of Native American culture that I have always been fascinated with are the songs and dances. The dances done have specific meanings to each tribe. Some are social dances, some are war dances and some are spiritual dances. It is usually the social dances that we are allowed to view in these public gatherings. Singers are the most important part of these dances though, because they tell the story of the dance. It is through song and dance that Native Americans have saved, shared and taught each generation their lessons and stories. The dances are also full of energy and the vibrant colours of the costumes worn for each dance.
It is said that, when various tribes gathered together, the words of the songs were changed to “vocables”, or sounds instead of words, so that those of each tribe could understand and join in. However, the meaning of each song is still special to those who know them. Many of the old songs have been revised in the present, as a reminder of their heritage and where they have come from.
There are also new programs out now where you can volunteer to do work on a Native American reservation, where you can learn about their past and present. One such place is the Crow Creek Reservation in South Dakota.
Another way to experience Native American culture is by visiting areas that were once steeped in their way of life. For example, Taos Pueblo in New Mexico is a 13th century settlement of adobe dwellings that is a “living community”, meaning a place where one can go to experience the day to day life of a Native American community. They offer guided tours, places to buy Native American crafts, and fry bread eating.
In Denver Colorado there is a Native American restaurant where you can enjoy some of the rich foods of their culture. The restaurant tries to blend old recipes with the modern age. One favourite there is the Indian Taco that uses shredded bison meat in the recipe.
Santa Fe, New Mexico is another area that is rich in Native American culture and you often need to take more than one trip to experience all that it has to offer. The Canyon Road gallery hosts a variety of Native arts. They also have one of the largest Native American venues for Native American artists to show their creations.
The Gathering of Nations, which takes place in New Mexico, is the worlds largest gathering of Native American cultures in one area. About 700 tribes come together for this massive event and there is so much that one can experience of this culture.
Phoenix, Arizona is home to nearly 45,000 indigenous people and 22 tribes. It also houses the Heard Museum, which is one of the best for enjoying Native American culture.
These are but a few of the many places one can go to get a real feel for Native American culture.