Tribal museums offer visitors the opportunity to experience art, history and culture. Hidden among the baskets, sculptures, beadwork and other material artifacts, a tribal community’s true story emerges. A tribal museum or cultural center is also a great way to share culture in a noninvasive setting. Here are just a few stellar examples.
Chickasaw Cultural Center
A stunning campus, the Chickasaw Cultural Center is designed to share Chickasaw culture with the world. The museum features interactive galleries, a 350-seat theater and amphitheater, the Chikasha Inchokka' (“Chickasaw house”) Traditional Village, culture and history study center, gardens, dining and art for sale. Experience stomp dance and cultural demonstrations, the rich panoply of Chickasaw history and art, as well as traditional foods.
867 Cooper Memorial Dr.
Sulphur, OK 73086
The winter home of Chief Seattle is also the home of this window into Suquamish culture and history. Located on the Kitsap Peninsula overlooking Puget Sound, the museum showcases many items never displayed before in public, including art and artifacts on loan from Suquamish families as well as the National Museum of the American Indian, in a facility reflecting Suquamish lands and values. Visitors to the permanent exhibit Ancient Shores—Changing Tides will be greeted to the land of the “people of the clear salt water” with whispering pines, voices in the tribal language, Lushootseed, a video featuring oral histories and a grand timeline of Suquamish history crafted in cedar. Exhibits have included Northwest trade, basketry and other facets of Suquamish and Salish life and culture.
6861 N.E. South Street
Suquamish, WA 98392
Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center
The Mashantucket Pequot’s grand museum consists of permanent exhibits, the Mashantucket Gallery (which hosts temporary exhibits), classrooms, a 320-seat auditorium, a restaurant, a museum shop and administrative offices in a 308,000-square-foot complex. A 185-foot, stone and glass tower provides visitors with sweeping views of the region. The restaurant features a variety of Native cuisines, and the museum shop specializes in contemporary Native American arts and crafts. The Research Center is a major resource on the histories and cultures of Native Americans in the Northeast, as well as on the region's rich natural history. Special events like clambakes and art shows complement the exhibits.
110 Pequot Trail, P.O. Box 3180
Mashantucket, CT 06338-3180
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center
The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center bills itself as the gateway to the Southwest’s 19 pueblos, and should be the first stop on any Native New Mexico itinerary. Filled with Pueblo pottery and murals, the cultural center is abuzz with cultural, educational and community exhibits, and other activities, all open to the public, all in the heart of Albuquerque. Native dances are held each weekend, and kids can learn more about the Pueblo culture with hands-on activities. Nosh on award-winning Native cuisine at Pueblo Harvest Café, and bring home authentic Native treasures from Shumakolowa Native Arts. Don’t forget to see the authentic Pueblo horno oven, which has provided delicious breads, stews and cookies for hundreds of years.
2401 12th Street NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87104
Southern Ute Museum
The Southern Ute Museum, operated by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, is a new building encompassing an ancient history and contemporary culture. The 46-year- old museum is currently housed in a glass, steel and timber building. The Welcome Gallery greets visitors with its medicine wheel ceiling that soars 60 feet high on wooden columns and ushers all into the facility. The museum’s permanent exhibit tells the story of the Ute people with photographic curtains and life-size replicas, as well as video, audio and touchscreen equipment. These highly interactive displays offer something for every age group. Don’t miss the veteran’s display, which showcases tribal members serving in the military.
503 Ouray Drive
Ignacio, CO 81137
Pyramid Lake Museum
Learn more about the fascinating history and culture of the “cui-ui eaters,” or Pyramid Lake Paiute, at this wonderful little museum, which celebrates the arts, culture and history of a people who thrive in the midst of the U.S.’s driest state, Nevada. Exhibits showcase the Paiute people’s relationship to Pyramid Lake and the Truckee River, including the miracle of the restoration of the Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, once considered extinct, and the Stone Mother rock formation.
709 State Street P.O. Box 256
Nixon, NV 89424
Museum of the Cherokee Indian (Eastern Band)
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian, named by National Museum of the American Indian Director Kevin Gover as one of the top 10 Native sites east of the Mississippi, is in the heart of traditional Cherokee territory in North Carolina. Through exhibits featuring interactive video, life-size figures, computer-generated animation and artifacts, the museum takes visitors on a journey through 13,000 years of Cherokee history. In addition to exhibits and special events, groups can arrange for special programming, including Cherokee language courses and performances of the Cherokee War Dance and the Eagle Dance by the Warriors of AniKithuwa.
589 Tsali Blvd.
Cherokee, NC 28719
Iroquois Indian Museum
The only museum on this list that is not directly owned by a tribe, the Iroquois Indian Museum is a private non-pro t institution that showcases the cultures, arts and history of the Six Nations. Housed in a building that evokes the elm bark Great Iroquois Longhouses, the museum provides the worldview of the peoples of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. A 45-acre nature park introduces visitors to Iroquois’ views on the natural world. Exhibits showcase the work of artists from the Six Nations, called by some scholars the world’s oldest living participatory democracy. Other displays highlight aspects of a single tribe—such as the fearless high-rise work of Mohawk steelworkers. Events—such as Iroquois social dance—are presented in cooperation and partnership with Iroquois artists and scholars.
324 Caverns Road
Howes Cave, NY 12092
Navajo Nation Museum
Nestled among the sandstone cliffs and high desert flora of Window Rock, Arizona, the Navajo Nation Museum brings the rich history and culture of the Diné people to life. Changing exhibits examine Navajo life through art, archival materials—the museum cares for more than 40,000 photographs—and oral histories. The museum is also spearheading innovative means to preserve the Navajo language: Navajo Nation Museum Director Manuelito Wheeler has partnered with Disney to produce two of its iconic films, Star Wars and Finding Nemo, dubbed in Navajo.
Highway 264 and Post Office Loop
Window Rock, AZ 86515