10th annual native tourism conference coming to Lake Tahoe | FirstNationsFocus.com

10th annual native tourism conference coming to Lake Tahoe

By Autumn Whitney | Special to First Nation's Focus
Eagle Wing Pageant Dancers, a traditional dance troupe, perform in Reno during Artown on July 31, 2017.
Photo: Courtesy Larry Burton

STATELINE, Nev. — The 10th annual Nevada Tribal Tourism Conference makes its way to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore for three days of industry education on April 23-25.

The conference — put on by Nevada’s Indian Territory, Nevada Indian Commission and Nevada Division of Tourism — focuses on the impact tourism has on indigenous cultures. Through speakers and a tour of the region, attendees will learn by experience how the industry can revitalize cultures.

It’s an event that bears much weight when it comes to the future of tribes in the surrounding region.

“It’s an opportunity for our tribes to share with visitors their story of who they are and the values that they stand for,” said Sherry Rupert, executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission. “Too many times our Indian people are referred to in a historical sense, but through tourism, we have the opportunity to tell the world who we are today and to be able to share our culture with them.”

Stacey Montooth, public relations officer with the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC), agrees.

“It’s a platform to not only share our stories and our culture, but it’s an avenue for us to be in charge. When I say ‘in charge,’ I mean historically we haven’t been the orators of our story,” she said. “Let’s say 20 or 30 years ago if you wanted to learn about Great Basin Native Americans, you’d have to go to museums or galleries that were typically run by states or municipalities rather than tribal governments.

“The platform of tribal tourism allows a completely authentic experience. We are conveying the accurate, essential history and culture of our people.”

Spreading information in the voice of the people themselves isn’t the only benefit of tribal tourism: The industry also provides additional revenue and an “income stream” for the communities, Rupert said.

One of the conference’s underlying goals is to teach best practices of making this type of tourism work.

“It’s raising awareness, providing answers, providing information — because not all tribes want to get into tourism. Some have concerns about it,” said Rupert, adding that the conference helps attendees decide whether that path is one they want to take.

Montooth said the education RSIC representatives have received from the conference in past years is key to the development the nation has seen recently.

“The Nevada Indian Commission has done a magnificent job of studying business models, they’ve identified ways to bring tourists not just from America, but internationally, to reservations to have an authentic experience with our culture,” Montooth said.

Coupling that information with the separate work and studies RSIC has completed, the colony has begun looking into building a cultural resource center that will house performances of traditional dance and allow members to work on both modern and native art.

“One thing I tell the tribes here is: ‘We may not be large, we may not have a ton of money, but that’s not what visitors are seeking, especially international travelers,’” said Rupert. “They’re seeking an experience, to visit indigenous Americans, to experience them as people. I think we have a lot to offer in the state of Nevada.”

Apart from presentations, the conference will also offer a Washoe Homelands Mobile Workshop — which takes attendees on a tour of the region from a tribal perspective — on Monday, April 23. Learn more online at http://www.nevadaindianterritory.com.

Autumn Whitney is a reporter with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a newspaper within the Sierra Nevada Media Group, which publishes First Nation’s Focus.