Native Americans were the first inhabitants of America, but many of us know little about their culture or journey through American history. We should be educated on the people who we share this great land with, as well as learn about this integral part of our past. There are several Native American heritage sites scattered throughout the country that will help us do just that.
These places dive deep into the lives of these people and give us a new perspective on American history. It might not even be something you think about, but it is a topic of conversation everyone should uncover at some point in their lives. Keep reading to learn about ten Native American heritage attractions everyone should see!
10 10. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument (Cortez, Colorado)
This monument covers about 176,000 acres of land that belong to the federal government and it was designated back in 2000. There is a lot of evidence of native cultures that have been preserved from villages to reservoirs, and so much more.
It is still being used by the Northern Ancestral Puebloan culture to this day and has been for the past 10,000 years. There is also a local visitors center and museum that provides more in-depth information on these cultures and the archaeological sites on the land.
9 9. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument (Silver City, New Mexico)
These caves were used by nomads as a form of temporary shelter toward the beginning of human existence. The Mogollon culture later called this place home back in the 1200s and live there for about twenty years, in which time they built walls and left behind useful artifacts that gave us insight into their past.
You can join a ranger-guided tour at the dwellings, which is about a half-hour hike from where you parked. It is an amazing sight to see that it is filled with history and ancient architecture.
8 8. Ocmulgee National Monument (Macon, Georgia)
This location dates back to prehistoric times and is still inhabited to this day by Native Americans. The most notable feature about this place are the mounds that were constructed back in 900 CE, which still hold the dead bodies of their leaders.
You can walk inside the mound and see for yourself what these ancient civilizations built and maintained for thousands of years. The best time to visit is during the annual Ocmulgee Indian Celebration near the end of September, where you can gain first-hand experience of what this culture is actually like.
7 7. Aztec Ruins National Monument (Aztec, New Mexico)
This is where a lot of the Pueblo Native Americans history resides, as it was an integral part of their journey to migrate across the United States. This area was built about 900 years ago and you can walk through the famous Pueblo Great House and see the imprints these people left behind.
They have even recreated the Great Kiva for visitors to walk through and gain a modern-day feel for how these people lived. This is one site rooted in the heart of Native American culture and their visitor center and events help recreate the past in a way we can understand.
6 6. Poverty Point State Historic Site (Pioneer, Louisiana)
The native peoples who lived here created mounds that overlooked the Mississippi River that was considered architecturally advanced for the time. It is assumed that these mounds served as homes for the inhabitants, but there is little evidence to support this hypothesis.
Travelers should add this location in particular to their travel agenda because there is nothing else like it in the world. They created a new standard for construction as this culture worked together to move millions of cubic feet of soil. There is a museum on-site, as well as events and tram tours where guests can learn the full extent that this culture had on our past.
5 5. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (Crow Agency, Montana)
This was a battle where the United States fought against the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Native American tribes. They were fighting for their right to continue living their nomadic way of life, as the treaty they were meant to sign would have created more conflicts for them in terms of food and competition with other tribes.
The United States decided to go into battle with the Native Americans, and both sides paid a hefty price. This place is a memorial to the men who lost their lives on both sides of the battle, and today you can listen to an audio tour on your cell phone with numerous stops that will help you relive this momentous day in history.
4 4. Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park (Santa Barbara, California)
If you have a passion for art, then you should check out these early Native American cave drawings in Santa Barbara. These were created by the Chumash Native Americans prior to the 1600s, and the meaning behind the images has been lost to time.
You can view it from a distance by walking down the steep path to peer through the grate which was erected after too many people decided to vandalize this piece of history. It is recommended you bring a flashlight as the caves can be a little dark, but it is a trip that is well worth it.
3 3. Trail of Tears National Historic Trail (Spans Several States)
You probably remember this from your history class, but as a refresher, this is the trail the United States Government forced the Cherokee to take as they were evicted from their homes. 16,000 people were removed from their homes, and more than a thousand died on the trail as they headed west. This trail runs through several different states and there are numerous stops along its path where visitors can explore museums or historic stops along this famous route.
2 2. Montezuma Castle National Monument (Camp Verde, Arizona)
This is another extraordinary cave dwelling that was built by the native peoples who lived in this land. It was built by the Pueblo culture, and people used to be able to venture inside of these ruins until 1951.
People began to vandalize it and ruin its integrity, so now all you can do is gaze through the open windows as an outsider. It is kind of symbolic as we are separated from this ancient culture in more ways than one, and looking upon this helps visitors see just how far we have come as a society.
1 1. Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site (Stanton, North Dakota)
These were the dwellings of the Earthlodge people who hunted bison but also farmed a great deal to supply themselves with food. It was one of the major trade centers for Native Americans, and later, it became a place for settlers to trade their furs.
It was an epicenter of activity and a place every American should see if they want to learn first-hand what it was like for these native peoples. Visitors will have a new perspective by the end of their trip as they discover a newfound love for these peoples and their history.