Native American Country

By Shaw, Kerry | Sunset, May 1998 | Go to article overview

Native American Country


Shaw, Kerry, Sunset


To celebrate Sunset's 100th anniversary in 1998, we're counting up 100 of the West's best destinations. This month: where to find the West's most important Native American sites.

Sunset's century of publication is but a flicker in time compared with the millennia that Native Americans have inhabited this continent. Indeed, the history of native peoples in the West is our cultural bedrock, pervading our parks, monuments, museums, and libraries. While there are too many Native American sites to list in these few pages, here is a sampling of some of the most remarkable ones.

32 Saxman Totem Park, Ketchikan, Alaska. The carvings on each of the 25-foot-tall totem poles that line the road to Saxman Village tell a different story in Tlingit history. A "man with a tall hat" honors President Abraham Lincoln. Other poles depict the raven and the eagle, two of the tribe's clan symbols. In the village itself are a tribal house and a carving center, where master woodworkers create poles. From May through September, the Tlingit-owned Cape Fox Tours leads two-hour tours that include educational films and dance performances.

Where: About 3 miles south of Ketchikan.

Cost: S30 at Saxman Village Store.

Contact: (907) 225-4421.

33 Ksan Historical Village and Museum, Hazelton, British Columbia. Seven replicas of traditional 'Ksan dwellings sit at the confluence of the Skeena and Bulkley rivers. The Frog House of the Distant Past is furnished to resemble a longhouse from the late 1800s. The museum and gift shop, open year- round, are found in other buildings in the village, which is open for complete tours mid-April through September. Where: About 290 miles northeast of Prince Rupert.

Cost: $2, $7 with a tour.

Contact: (250) 842-5544. 34 Coso Range Petroglyphs, Naws Navy Base, China Lake, California. The highest concentration , of rock art in the Western Hemisphere can be found in the Coso Range, in the northern Mojave Desert. The petroglyphs, created between 4,000 and 14,000 years ago, feature thousands of herds of sheep and other animals. Access is only by guided tours offered in spring and fall through the Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest.

Where: About 140 miles northeast of Los Angeles off U.S. 395.

Cost: $20.

Contact: (760) 375-6900.

354 Museum at Warm Springs, Oregon. Finished in 1993, the 25,000square-foot museum preserves many heirlooms, promotes tribal history, and hosts native activities, from dancing lessons to poetry readings. It's worth a trip just to see the museum's exterior, which has brick walls set in a basket-weave design. Inside are Klickitat baskets, among other objects.

Where: About 90 miles southeast of Portland. Cost: $6.

Contact: (541) 553-3331.

36 Yakama Nation Cultural Heritage Center, Toppenisb, Washington. Since 1980, the center has celebrated the Yakama people. Inside, a museum features re-creations of ancient fishing grounds, replicas of traditional dwellings, and an Indian time ball-a ball of hemp twine that is rolled to record the significant events in a woman's life. The center's library has about 20,000 volumes on American Indian history and culture that are available to the public.

Where: In Toppenish.

Cost: Museum admission $4.

Contact: (509) 865-2800.

37 Havasupai Reservation, Arizona. Thanks to its setting on the floor of the Grand Canyon, the Havasupai Reservation is perhaps the most spectacular in the nation. And unlike some tribes, who were removed from their ancestral lands, the Havasupai have been living here since the 14th century. Visiting the reservation is no small task, though: it's an 8-mile hike from the trailhead to the village of Supai, the heart of the reservation.

Where: Northeast of Peach Springs, off State 66; call for directions.

Cost: Prices range from $15 to enter the reservation for hiking to $80 for a horseback ride down and back up the trail. …

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