Home News How to Select an Indigenous Travel Experiences Adventure Brown Lynn

How to Select an Indigenous Travel Experiences Adventure Brown Lynn

How to Select an Indigenous Travel Experiences Adventure Brown Lynn

From Alaska to Australia, Indigenous communities around the world are creating travel experiences that allow visitors to learn more about their history, culture, and future.


These new tourism initiatives, led by the communities themselves, enable Indigenous peoples to create impactful experiences that help to preserve their culture and educate visitors.

For travelers seeking more diverse and intentional travel experiences, it is critical to seek out authentic opportunities led by people from that culture. This will not only enrich the traveler’s life, but will also contribute to the ongoing struggle for Indigenous self-determination and understanding.

The rise of Indigenous-led tourism experiences

What sets the newest trend of Indigenous tourism is that the businesses driving it are owned or led by members of Indigenous communities. This means that the experiences are more genuine, less exploitative, and give directly back to the community.

The attraction with Indigenous culture and communities is not new. Tourism has existed in Indigenous communities for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, these experiences were frequently exploitative, appropriative, or outright destructive, rather than beneficial.

Historical examples include the famous “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” show of the late 1800s, as well as the existence of so-called ethnological art shows or human zoos, which featured Indigenous peoples held and displayed until the mid-20th century.

Even today, for tourist dollars, companies owned by outsiders frequently exploit and appropriate Indigenous communities and religious practices, such as the popular Ayahuasca tours in South America.

Fortunately, the majority of Indigenous-led tourism experiences today seek to use tourism as a vehicle for cultural preservation. Hundreds of such businesses have started growing up around the world in the last decade, and several tourism organizations have formed to help them succeed.

What types of experiences are available?

Arctic Bay Adventures is an Inuit-owned company that offers polar treks in Nunavut. ARCTIC BAY ADVENTURE/FACEBOOK

Indigenous tourism experiences that are springing up across the Americas and around the world reflect the diversity of Indigenous communities.

“The most important thing to know about visiting Indian country is that there is no such thing as one Indian country,” said Sherry Rupert, CEO of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association.

There is no single activity or location that makes a tourism experience more or less “Indigenous.” Instead, it is the communities themselves that separate the experiences. The variety of opportunities available reflects the diversity of experiences, locations, and cultures found within Indigenous communities.

Because there are so many options, there is an Indigenous-led activity or experience for every type of traveler.

Adventure travelers seeking remote experiences, for example, can travel to the Arctic with Arctic Bay Adventures, an Inuit-owned and operated company that runs polar expeditions in Canada’s remote Nunavut province.

Those seeking cultural experiences may be interested in the award-winning Wukalina Walk, a 4-day/3-night hiking adventure guided by the Aboriginal Palawa community. Visitors trek through Wukalina, also known as Mt William National Park in the Australian state of Tasmania, learning about the land, the Palawa community, and the culture.

The Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians is constructing a multimillion-dollar cultural plaza right in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, California.

“Look, we’re modern, traditional, urban, and remote. People just don’t realize… because so many of their images are derived from movies, right?” The diversity of experiences available, according to Keith Henry, president and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, is impressive.

Why supporting these businesses matters

Yurok guides Zechariah Gabel, Sammy Gensaw and Jon-Luke Gensaw from Redwood Yurok Canoe Tours in California paddle tourists along the Klamath River in traditional canoes handcrafted from Redwood trees.

AIANTA will publish the findings of an economic impact study of tourism in Indigenous communities in the United States in 2021. According to the study, Native-owned hospitality businesses are a $14 billion industry.

While job creation is important regardless of destination, it is especially important in more rural communities where jobs are often scarce. As a result, tourism contributes significantly to the local economy by creating a significant number of jobs. However, many communities do not consider this to be the most important factor in providing Indigenous experiences.

“Tourism also supports cultural workers like guides, artists, dancers, and presenters who share their culture and traditions,” Rupert explained. “It enables the tribe to fund cultural training programs, allowing culture to be passed down from generation to generation and shared with visitors.”

Both Rupert and Henry emphasized the educational benefits of participating in these types of tourism experiences, which allow Indigenous peoples to share their own stories with visitors. After all, much of what we know about Indigenous peoples worldwide is incorrect and based on racial stereotypes.

Travelers gain a better understanding of these communities and their culture by participating in these Indigenous-led experiences, which they can then share with others to help dispel misinformation.

How to find an Indigenous tourism experience

“We know that there is a lot of interest internationally for Indigenous experiences,” said Phil Lockyer, Australia Tourism’s head of Indigenous affairs. “I believe that people… not just travelers, but also partners and distribution, do not always know how to effectively access them.”

So how do you find authentic Indigenous travel experiences?

The most important factor to consider when looking for an Indigenous tourism experience is that it is run or at least led by Indigenous peoples. This ensures that the information you’re receiving is correct and that your experience is beneficial rather than harmful to the community.

Most businesses run or led by Indigenous peoples will make specific mention of it on their websites. Look for businesses that specifically identify the tribe or community with which they are affiliated. Another option is to look into organizations like ITAC and AIANTA, which work with Indigenous peoples to help them grow and market their tourism businesses.

On the consumer side, these organizations also host websites that make it easier to find Indigenous-owned or led experiences. Native American Travel, for example, is a resource for those looking for authentic Indigenous travel experiences in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.

ITAC operates a similar website for Canadian experiences called Destination Indigenous and collaborates with a number of other Indigenous tourism organizations organized by province.

Similarly, Australia Tourism has a Discover Aboriginal Experiences section on its website that allows visitors to explore options for connecting with Indigenous tourism businesses across the country.

There are numerous Indigenous-led travel experiences available throughout Latin America, though they are currently easiest to find by searching for them individually on Google.

When looking for these kinds of experiences, keep in mind that not every tourism business that focuses on Indigenous cultures and people is Indigenous-led. Many businesses will provide Indigenous experiences and may even hire a few members of an Indigenous community to lend credibility to something that isn’t always beneficial or even respectful to the group as a whole.

To avoid causing more harm than good, avoid anything that appears to allow unrestricted access to sacred sites, such as climbing Uluru in Australia, or promises to allow outsiders access to religious ceremonies.

“Indigenous perspectives aren’t always driven by economics,” Henry explained. “I’ve found the most benefit in our communities… realizing this is a very powerful engine to support cultural revitalization.”


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