Indigenous travel brings the past to the present. It allows you to witness ancestral traditions in action and immerses you in unique ways of life you never knew existed. And this is exactly why Trafalgar launches its new National Parks and Native Trails of the Dakotas tour (rooted in Native American history).
From feather-filled powwows and guided plant walks to campfire stories of worshipped warriors – this 9-day journey into Dakota’s tribal reservations and sweeping national parks in the US midwest shows you what it means to be an indigenous American. But first…
Why is indigenous tourism important?
‘We will be known forever by the tracks we leave behind.’Native American Proverb from the Dakota Sioux
The UN hails indigenous people for boosting ‘the diversity of the world’s cultural and biological landscape’ as they cover 22% of the world’s land, account for 370-500 million people and 7000 languages. That being said, Trafalgar’s tour supports the 71,800 Native Americans in South Dakota (made up of 9 tribes), and seeks to preserve their language and cultural traditions.
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GET INSPIRED BY: National Parks and Native Trails of the Dakotas tour
Tour teaser: 6 indigenous spots you’ll visit
Safe to say: you won’t find this at home.
Badlands National Park
Badlands National Park is bound to take your breath away. Covering 987 square kilometres in (southwestern) South Dakota, it’s full of colourful spired rocks, buttes, pinnacles and deep gorges. Plus the largest mixed grass prairie of any registered National Park. Amazingly, water and wind erosion have caused colourful sedimentary layers to form here – meaning streaks of purple, yellow, orange, red and white run over rugged rocks.
Any visitor will wonder if they are really still on earth here. Especially if they encounter the fossilised skeletons of camels, horses, rhinos, three-toed horses and saber-toothed cats the park is renowned for in the science world. Hiking, star and sunrise gazing, camping and wildlife watching are regulars here: keep an eye out for butterflies, turtles, snakes, bluebirds, vultures, eagles and hawks.
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The Rosebud Indian Reservation
Stretching 5,103km in South Dakota, the Rosebud Indian Reservation is a crucial indigenous hub – home to 21,000 people from the Sicangu Lakota and Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Each member is itching to tell you pulsating stories of past leaders and battles on your arrival. As well as offer you traditional energy-boosting foods like wojapi berry soup. While you’re here, pop into the Buechel Museum to admire over 2,000 artefacts and photographs that give fascinating insights into Sioux culture. From dream-catchers to battle spears and stone engravings.
Sitting Bull Monument
Overlooking the Missouri River in South Dakota’s Standing Rock reservation, you will find an imposing statue of former Hunkpapa Teton Sioux spiritual leader, Tatanka Iyotake – known as Chief Sitting Bull (1830-1890). He was worshipped by tribal nations for his resistance against the US government’s attempt to own Native American tribal lands. (And this is a struggle that continues today).
Eventually, Sitting Bull was killed by Indian police at the Standing Rock reservation – but his efforts to preserve the strength and identity of the Sioux people has become an example to others even since.
Earth Lodge Village
Located on Lake Sakakawea’s stunning shores, the Earth Lodge Village (in North Dakota) is home to a large chunk of the 5,600 Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes-people who live in the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. The building of these charming earth and wooden homes was overseen by elderly women in the community. And today, they invite visitors in for a jaw-dropping dance performance featuring locals in colourful traditional regalia.
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Crazy Horse Memorial
At 641 feet long by 563 feet high in South Dakota’s Black Hills, you will spot the world’s largest mountain carving: the Crazy Horse Memorial. The granite carving depicts famous Oglala Lakota leader Tasunke Witco (known as ‘Crazy Horse’) – who died in 1877 and famously led his men against the U.S. Cavalry battalion at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. He was known for his wild fighting ability and for putting others before himself.
We see him riding a horse and pointing to his tribal in a granite-carved sculpture that honours all indigenous Americans. The Crazy Horse Memorial‘s mission is “to protect and preserve the culture, tradition and living heritage of the North American Indians”; which is why a local guide will reveal its history on Trafalgar’s Native Trails of the Dakotas tour. Plus help you understand the Native American history behind the artefacts in the nearby museum.
Oxbow Overlook in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Any traveler must take the scenic route that climbs from bottom of the Badlands up to the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota) to arrive at the Oxbow Overlook. Here, you can gaze in awe at the Little Missouri River meandering beautifully through the still valley below. Among the unspoiled green plains, your eyes will inevitably catch the buffalo, white tail deer, elk, longhorn cattle and white horse exploring the scenery they call home. Your heart will stop here in a travel experience that will remain etched on your heart for much longer than your journey home.
Would you like to support indigenous travel and learn about Native American history on our National Parks and Native Trails of the Dakotas tour? Tell us in the comments below or click the link to discover more.