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Visit Native California Program Aims to Promote Indigenous Culture

Tribal leaders in California and across the United States met with the state’s tourism authority in Palm Springs on Wednesday to announce the launch of the state’s landmark initiative, Visit Native California. Created in partnership with California’s tourism marketing agency, Visit California, this new initiative aims to connect travelers directly to native-led and designed programs throughout the Golden State. The ultimate goal is to encourage visitors to explore California’s Indigenous culture through purposeful travel and experiences that go beyond Indigenous-owned resorts and casinos.

California boasts a rich Indigenous history, with 109 federally recognized tribes throughout the state today, representing approximately 720,000 people. Tribe sizes vary greatly. The Yurok community of Northern California is one of the few tribes never removed from their ancestral homeland, with approximately 6,300 registered members, while the Augustin Band his Cahuilla Indian population is The smallest, with only 11 registered members. Some languages ​​have been lost, but California once had 64 different native languages.

Located just outside Palm Springs, the Temalpak Reservation is one of the smallest settlements in the state. They turned the land into an organic farm.

Photo by Visit California/Max Whittaker

Many tribes have promoted tourism experiences locally, but prior to the launch of Visit Native California, the focus was on promoting and marketing Indigenous-led travel experiences like Montana’s Tribal Tourism Development Project and North Dakota’s Natives. There was no state-level agency dedicated to Tourism Alliance (dating back to 2017 and his 2016 respectively). The new initiative aims to become the go-to resource for information on Indigenous cultural tourism opportunities, helping tribes across the state carve out a space for themselves in California’s lucrative tourism market. I hope

Funding for the project comes from a $1 million federal grant from the U.S. Relief Plan Act, a law signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021 aimed at mitigating the economic and public health impact of the pandemic. obtained from subsidies. In the early stages of the project, funds will be invested in building Visit Native California’s online platform, as well as promoting select itineraries, museums, restaurants, outdoor activities and cultural centers through social media and online influencers. . The “first wave” of this content is scheduled to debut in his March 2023. Subsequent stages will see funding thrown in to help the tribe design more experiences. Hosted by the Yurok Tribe, we took a guided walking tour with the Meuk Tribe of Tuolumne County.

“As the state with the largest Native American population and one of the nation’s top tourist destinations, California is poised to significantly increase the promotion and interest of Native tourism nationwide with this initiative.” said Sherry Rupert, CEO of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association. , as described in the release. Rupert also attended the launch of Visit Native California. “We have seen the economic benefits that come from uniting under a common banner, but more importantly, the power of cultural tourism to support the preservation and perpetuation of our culture. I’m watching it.”

Operations are headquartered at Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza in Palm Springs and are set to officially debut next spring. Spread over his six acres in downtown the city, the new facility includes a museum dedicated to the history and culture of the Agua Caliente people, expansive gardens, and therapeutic treatments where visitors can enjoy: There is a Séc-he Spa. Massage and halotherapy. The Agua Caliente people have lived in the Palm Springs area for thousands of years and now number about 500 members.

Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza

The soon to debut Agua Caliente Cultural Center will be the headquarters for Visit Native California.

Photo by Visit California/Max Whittaker

“This project and this site give my tribe the opportunity and the ability to share our culture,” said Reid D. Milanovic, president of the Agua Caliente Band of Kahuira Indians, at a press conference. said in “this is us.”

The launch of Visit Native California comes at a time of healing and recovery for California’s tourism industry from the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020 alone, California is projected to lose her $72.8 billion in tourism spending. Tribal communities have been hit hardest in the state, both economically and public health. The new initiative promises to be a useful way for the tribe to not only benefit financially, but also to share their culture with new audiences eager to make deeper and more meaningful connections while traveling.

“Sharing our culture is about preserving it,” Milanovic said.