Tribal Tourism in the Northern Great Plains

Developing a strategy for tribal tourism in the Northern Great Plains of the United States

  • Client: World Wildlife Fund (WWF)
  • Partners: Working Group for the Northern Great Plains Tribal Initiative on Sustainable Wildlife Conservation
  • Project Duration: February 2018 – August 2018

Project Description:

In today’s America, Indian Country is a distinctive part of the American experience that comprises more than 56 million acres in the lower 48 states. Many tribal communities have developed cultural and heritage tourism as an important component of their economic development and improved quality of life within communities. The increased national interest in cultural tourism is also seen by many tribes as a timely opportunity to provide authentic experiences of Native life, history, arts and cultures. Tribal support for these tourism initiatives is derived not only from a desire to create jobs and to promote local economies, but also from the desire to support, maintain and reinforce traditional cultures—including language, traditional arts and crafts, dances, songs, stories and foods. If developed properly, tourism can be as unique as the tribes themselves and serve as a powerful tool for Native American communities to conserve their way of life. Additionally, due to the lack of consistency in federal funding, wildlife protection grants, and Conservation Trust Funds, the Native American nations of the Great Plains require a more consistent form of income to protect the natural integrity of their land. This is an extremely important goal, as the geography, wildlife, and flora of the Great Plains are of significant economic, spiritual, and historical importance to these nations. This project centers around creating new and improved tourism products and services in the Northern Great Plains region that give visitors a chance to leave money behind and increase the awareness and support of local residents in protecting their cultural resources as a vital part of their local economy.

Major Activities:

  • Through conducting a comprehensive tourism assessment, Solimar will develop an understanding of the supply and demand for Native American experiences in the Northern Great Plains, including the existing and potential attractions, market demand, and supporting tourism infrastructure and services.
  • Next, Solimar will identify strategies for economic development through tourism products and generate feedback and validate ideas with local stakeholders.
  • Once validated, Solimar will turn the strategies into actionable plans to clearly articulate how the strategies could be carried out by local groups to generate jobs and economic benefits while celebrating their culture.
  • To ensure the strategy is implemented , Solimar will develop a financial needs assessment to better understand additional funding needed for key activities.

Anticipated Results:

  • Create strategic tourism development opportunities: Involve stakeholders representing local communities and the tourism sector and empower groups already working within the region to develop tourism and improve the overall visitor experience.
  • Tap into the existing tourism regional development initiatives (including local destination management organizations) and benefit from tourism industry resources and know-how to raise additional funds that 
will support the development of tourism in the region.
  • Develop an implementation plan, considering sub-strategies related to management capacity building, 
promotion and fundraising to ensure goals are met and sustained over the long-term.


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