A new initiative to bring tourism to Native American communities in California has launched and organizers hope to work with North Bay tribes to amplify their stories.
Visit Native California started online this month by Visit California, a nonprofit group aimed at driving demand for travel to California as an economic development tool.
Spreading those economic benefits to every corner of the state, including communities that don’t often benefit from tourism such as Indian Country, was important to them, said Ryan Becker, the vice president of communications for Visit California.
The Visit Native California site promotes tourism of tribes’ heritage experiences beyond casinos and resorts, with a focus on museums, cultural centers, outdoor experiences, restaurants and more. Included among the list of experiences is the Native-owned and operated California Indian Museum and Cultural Center in Santa Rosa.
“We were excited to see that they were promoting learning from tribal communities first-hand,” said Christina Tlatilpa Inong, a program specialist for the museum and center.
Learning about the culture, history and perspective from tribal members of a particular region is crucial, said Inong.
“Most people only learn about tribal history through the education system, which often lacks a true tribal perspective, especially in learning about the genocides of California tribes,” she said.
The project is funded by a $1 million federal grant awarded as part of the American Rescue Plan Act to help communities hit hardest by the pandemic, according to the organization in a news release.
While the project was initially seen as a way to boost economic development for tribes through tourism, the Visit California organization found that there was another meaning underneath the surface.
While working with tribes they discovered leaders were eager for “a way to continue telling their story and making sure that their story is heard across the generations,” Becker said. “And to me, that’s an unbelievable, meaningful objective that you can’t put a price on.
There are 109 federally recognized tribes in California, with the Yurok Tribe, located in Klamath, considered the largest in the state.
Visit California hopes to continue working with more Bay Area tribes now that the platform has launched, so that they can add meaningful educational information to the site and direct tourists to unique educational opportunities in a way that is sustainable and respectful to those tribes, Becker said. .
Tribal leaders, cultural centers or organizations that would like to promote their sites on Visit California can email [email protected] People interested in visiting the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center can book an appointment by emailing [email protected]