Visit California recently launched online platform, Visit Native California, a brand new statewide initiative in partnership with state officials and tribal leaders designed to showcase California’s vibrant Native communities and cultural tourism experiences to travellers around the world.
California is home to more than 100 federally recognised tribes, with Native culture woven into the fabric of its communities. The new site is a vital source of information on all of the cultural tourism experiences visitors can find across the state — including museums and cultural centres, outdoor experiences like hiking and boating, restaurants, tasting rooms and so much more.
Visit Native California is funded by a federal grant awarded as part of the American Rescue Plan Act to help the communities hardest hit by the pandemic. The grant earmarks $1 million to increase awareness of and travel to the state’s cultural heritage tourism experiences.
The funding enables Visit California to create and share stories on the Visit Native California platform, which are housed online at VisitCalifornia.com. These stories celebrate the spirit and diversity of California’s people and promote visitation to tribes’ cultural heritage tourism experiences.
Native storytellers will help expand the California Responsible Travel Code‘s emphasis on preserving the state’s cultural heritage and natural resources while bolstering the people who provide and promote Native experiences across the state.
Native California experiences across the state
Across California, destinations honour and celebrate the rich history of Native American tribes who first inhabited the state more than 15,000 years ago. From cultural heritage centres and museums to annual festivals and historic hotels, the state is a leader in preserving and uplifting Native American history. Learn more about California’s Native American history on your next trip with these unique and inspiring experiences.
Cultural Centres and Museums
· New Cultural Centre Opening in Palm Springs: Palm Springs is home to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the original inhabitants of the area. Explore their history and culture at historic sites like the sacred reservations at Tahquitz and Indian Canyons. Scheduled to open in April 2023, the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza includes a Cultural Museum, Gathering Plaza, gardens, Oasis Trail and The Spa at Séc-he, which will restore access to the underground ancient healing mineral waters, estimated to be over 12,000 years old. The Cultural Museum will act as a gateway to the tribe’s past, present and future with five different exhibit areas all dedicated to telling their history from the native flora and fauna of the Indian Canyons to ancient artefacts.
· Honouring the Chumash Tribe in Ventura County: Discover the local history of Ventura County, from the stories of the Chumash people to present-day facts at the Museum of Ventura County. The Chumash exhibit at the Channel Islands Maritime Museum details the Chumash as a seafaring civilisation. Tour the Old Mission Basilica San Buenaventura or take a trip to the Channel Islands National Park and discover where the Chumash hunted, fished and traded.
· Native Sites in San Diego: With over 32,000 archaeological sites in San Diego County, the San Diego Archaeology Center in Escondido features a rich collection of artefacts and allows visitors to learn the story of how people have lived in San Diego County for the past 12,000 years. The Barona Cultural Center & Museum, located on a Native American reservation, offers a unique educational journey with listening alcoves, photographic displays, archives and more than 300 artefacts. Cupa Cultural Center is dedicated to the Pala Indians and enhancing traditional cultural practices.
Majestic Parks, Gardens and Hiking Trails
· People of the Earth’s Santa Monica Park: In honour of the Tongva, “people of the earth”, and Native habitants of Santa Monica, the city built Tongva Park, a six-acre urban oasis adjacent to the beach. Take a self-guided tour of the park, which is divided into four main sections: Observation Hill, Discovery Hill, Garden Hill and Gathering Hill. The park features a native and locally appropriate sustainable plant palette that changes subtly with the seasons. Visit the Santa Monica History Museum to view artefacts and learn more about the Tongva people.
· Walk the Me-Wuk Trail in Tuolumne County: Tuolumne, also known as “Stone Houses,” is home to two native tribes – the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians and the Chicken Ranch Band of Me-Wuk Indians. The annual Me-Wuk Lifeways programmes offer authentic experiences to learn about and view ancient Native American dwellings and interpretive exhibits as part of a guided walk on the Shadow of the Me-Wuk Trail in Pinecrest Lake.
· Explore the Culture of the Yokuts in a Self-Guided Tour: Explore the amazing culture of the local Yokuts and Western Mono tribes in a self-guided tour that begins in Visalia. Start at Mooney Grove Museum to see one of the largest native American woven basket collections on display, before heading to the Kaweah Heritage Visitors Center at Kaweah Lake to witness bedrock mortar. Hospital Rock in Sequoia National Park is home to some of the finest examples of native American pictographs and the largest Native American village within current park boundaries once thrived here.
· Visit Native Historic Sites in Siskiyou: Lava Beds National Monument in northern California has more than 700 caves with Native American rock art sites. The rocks are carved petroglyphs and painted pictographs located in the traditional territory of the Modoc people and their ancestors. Stewart Mineral Springs also offers a unique environment of sacred mineral waters and a variety of workshops where the Karuk Tribe has respected these springs for generations.
Educational Festivals and Attractions
· Los Angeles Native American Culture and Heritage: Explore the history and impact of Los Angeles’ Native American culture and heritage at the Autry Museum of the American West that’s filled with Native film memorabilia, historic firearms and paintings. The Becoming Los Angeles exhibit at the National History Museum has sections on the Gabrielino and Tongva homelands. Heritage Park has traditional Tongva dwellings built by Tongva volunteers and Wishtoyo Chumash Village authentically recreates a working Native American village.
· Festivals and Tours in Del Norte County: Del Norte County is rich with Native American culture. Experience the Yurok tribe’s annual Klamath Salmon Festival on 19th August, or Tolowa Dee-ni’ Day on 22nd September. Hike the Grove of Titans to view the tallest coastal redwood trees on earth that are sacred to the Tolowa, tour the Yurok Country Visitor Center for local gems or book a Redwood Yurok Canoe Tour to paddle in an authentic hand-carved dugout canoe.
· Learn More About Native Cultures in Eureka: The Wiyot Heritage Center just 15 miles south of Eureka is dedicated to the understanding, revitalisation and celebration of Wiyot culture. It’s home to a permanent collection of Wiyot cultural materials and showcases temporary exhibits, educational programming and festivals throughout the year. In the city of Eureka, the American Indian Art and Gift Shop features work by more than 40 local indigenous artists and many out-of-area Native artists and crafters. Visitors can view extensive Native American basketry and regalia at the Clarke Historical Museum in Eureka.
· Experience a Kuyam at Ojai Valley Inn: Surrounded by sprawling hills and lush greens, Ojai Valley Inn continues to honour its Native American history and the Chumash Indians who settled in Ojai more than 10,000 years ago. From the names of its buildings and spaces, to its signature experiences, guests are immersed in Chumash heritage. At Spa Ojai, experience a Kuyam (“a place to rest together”), which is a therapeutic detoxifying massage coupled with a meditative and traditional Chumash narrative.
· Temecula’s Native American-Owned and Operated Resort: Located in Temecula Valley, Pechanga Resort Casino is owned and operated by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians who created the luxury resort to pay tribute to their heritage. Admire the cultural, historical and artist installations in the resort’s lobby and Summit Events Center. Spa Pechanga offers services derived from the healing botanicals used by Native people and is one of the only Native American-inspired spas in California.