Native Communities

State Highlights Tribal Tourism with New Guide to Oregon Indian Country

A partnership between Travel Oregon and the state’s 9 federally recognized tribes gives both residents and visitors a new way to experience Native culture and commerce.

By Sam Stites December 7, 2022

The new "Travel Guide to Oregon Indian Country” contains profiles on each of the nine federally recognized tribes in the state, with information on history, traditions, food, and commerce. Dr. Jason Younker, chief of the Coquille Indian Tribe (middle), and tribal members Matilda ViksneHill (left) and Kiana Younker appear on the cover of print guide, sharing some customary foods of the Coquille. 

Image: Travis Cooper

Long before it was the 33rd state (or even the Oregon Country), members of many tribes called Oregon home and were the first stewards its fields, forests, rivers, and lakes. Today, the federal government recognizes nine Indigenous tribal nations across Oregon, but they include distinct cultures and traditions of hundreds of smaller tribes and bands of people. 

Visitors and residents interested in seeing more of Oregon while also learning about and honoring the people who have lived here since time immemorial have a new, easy way to plan a trip centered on the state’s tribal cultures. 

This year, Travel Oregon partnered with the nine confederated tribes to produce a “Travel Guide to Oregon Indian Country”—a comprehensive overview of all things Native from gatherings to gaming to cultural centers and tribal commerce. The guide was published at the end of this summer. It is by far the most extensive look at tribal tourism since a committee representing the tribes collaborated with the state’s tourism commission on a guide back in 2005. 

This iteration features profiles on each of the nine tribes, including information on their location, history, traditions, food, and commerce, alongside stunning photography representing the people and landscape that make each unique. 

“It’s making people generally aware that there are places that tribes have built to welcome visitors to our communities,” says Bobbie Conner, director of the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute located on the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton.

Conner says the guide is a great way for the tribes to mobilize information and help spur greater interest in tourism opportunities many might not know about. 

“We wanted to give people a little bit of cultural insight, so that they would understand that these are hospitable nations in the state of Oregon,” she says. 

One of the most robust sections of the guide features information on museums, art galleries, and cultural centers like Tamástslikt. Coastal travelers curious about connecting with ancient and modern history through Indian eyes can make a stop at Coos History Museum, which partners with the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians to educate visitors on the region’s history before contact with European settlers. 

Headed to Central Oregon via US 26? Stop in at the Museum at Warm Springs to see interactive exhibits which rotate throughout the year and artifacts handed down through generations of families. 

The state’s gaming industry is also part of the rich history of Oregon’s tribes, says Travis Hill, director of hospitality with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. 

In 1987, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision in favor of the Cabazon Tribe, which operated a bingo hall in Riverside County, California. The high court ruled that neither the state nor county had legal standing to regulate the tribe’s gaming operation. That opened the door for other tribes across the country such as the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua, who decided to use a $1 million grant the tribe received as repayment for land taken from the tribe in the 1800s to build the Seven Feathers Resort and Casino in 1992 in Canyonville, between Roseburg and Grants Pass. 

Today, the tribe is celebrating 30 years in operation of the gaming facility and resort, which now includes a 300-room hotel, four restaurants, a lounge, a coffee roastery, event and concert spaces, a spa, and an RV park. That’s not to mention 68,000 square feet of gaming space.

“Hospitality was kind of an easy venue for us. Potlatch is a tradition for tribes where if you visit another family, you always leave something, whether that’s a pie or some leftovers,” Hill says. “That’s a tradition that has carried over for us, and something that tribes typically do really well because of the culture of hospitality.” 

But the new guide goes far beyond those highly visible hotel and casino complexes.

“Oregon’s tribes are thriving in their own communities,” says Lisa Itel, Travel Oregon’s director of strategic partnerships. “There are a lot of intricate things happening in these communities that are a bit more progressive. We wanted to highlight the importance of what tribes are doing in the present.” 

The guide can be found online here, as well as in hard copy in many tribal cultural centers and businesses on or near reservations across the state.

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