4 National Heritage Areas That Celebrate Native American Culture
The heritage of America's native peoples stretches back far before our nation's founding. Their culture and contributions helped shape the framework for what America is today. The traditions of conservation, self-governance, and determination inspired the landscape and ideals of a new nation.
The National Park Service, in partnership with Native American tribes across the country, seeks to protect and honor Native American heritage by preserving sites of cultural significance through the creation of National Heritage Areas in some of America's most important lands.
Unlike traditional units of the National Park System, National Heritage Areas are neither owned nor managed by the National Park Service. Instead, the NPS partners with local communities and organizations – and in the examples shared below, with tribes – to provide technical and planning assistance, in addition to distributing federal funds from Congress to preserve and raise public awareness of our nation’s cultural, historical, and natural resources.
This month, we take time to celebrated November’s designation as National Native American Heritage Month, and there's no better way to appreciate the unparalleled contributions of Native Americans than by paying a visit to a National Heritage Area near you.
To date, Congress has designated 49 National Heritage Areas, including these four, which preserve crucial Native American cultural landmarks.
Great Basin National Heritage Area
Rich in history and natural beauty, Great Basin National Heritage Area spans a large region in Utah and Nevada that includes the Goshute Indian Reservation, the Kanosh Indian Reservation, the Duckwater Shoshone Reservation, and the Ely Shoshone Tribe. The Great Basin's varied Native American history and staggering natural beauty make this one of the most exciting National Heritage Partnership sites.
Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area
Spanning 2,000 acres in Arizona, Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area protects a vast region of rich wetlands along the Colorado River, including the historic city of Yuma and parts of the Quechan Reservation. This vibrant locale continues to be important to the Quechan Indian Tribe, and the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is key to the restoration of the Colorado River and the preservation of the tribe's many traditions.
Blue Ridge National Heritage Area
North Carolina's Blue Ridge National Heritage Area strives to balance the modern world with the ancient traditions of the Cherokee people. In addition to its stunning mountain landscape, the heritage area includes a wide range of Cherokee historic sites, including the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Oconaluftee Indian Village, and Junaluska Museum and Memorial. Events throughout the year highlight traditional Cherokee music, storytelling, language, and crafts.
Champlain Valley National Heritage Area
Straddling the border between New York and Vermont, Champlain Valley National Heritage Area includes the ancestral homeland of Algonquin and Iroquois peoples. High-profile destinations like Fort Ticonderoga, parts of Adirondack Park, and the interconnected waterways of Lake George and Lake Champlain make the area a major tourist destination. Crucially, the ECHO (Ecology, Culture, History, and Opportunity) Lake Champlain Basin Audio Project continues to preserve and share the traditional music and stories of the region's indigenous people.
November is National Native American Heritage month, and the National Park Service is proud to help tell our nation's stories through National Heritage Areas across the country.
Photo credits: Kristi Fillman, National Park Service