Duration

20 days/21 nights

Distance Traveled

5,428 miles (8,735 kilometers)

Gateway Cities

Denver (DEN)

Seattle (SEA)

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  • Bighorn Medicine Wheel, Wyoming

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  • Dignity Statue, South Dakota

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  • United Tribes Technical College International Powwow, North Dakota

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  • National Bison Range, Montana

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  • Nez Perce National Historic Park Visitor Center, Idaho

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Overview

Arrival Gateway – Denver (DEN)
Day 1: Cheyenne (Home to Cheyenne Frontier Days), Wyoming
Day 2: Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming
Day 3: Bighorn Medicine Wheel, Wyoming
Day 4: Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming
Day 5: Crazy Horse Memorial | Black Hills, South Dakota
Day 6: Badlands National Park | Pine Ridge, South Dakota
Day 7: Chamberlain | Mitchell, South Dakota
Day 8: Sisseton | Wahpeton, South Dakota
Day 9: Bismarck-Mandan (Home to UTTC International Powwow), North Dakota
Day 10: On-A-Slant Indian Village, North Dakota
Day 11: Turtle Mountain Reservation, North Dakota
Day 12: Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation, North Dakota
Day 13: Crow Indian Reservation | Crow Fair | Little Bighorn Battlefield, Montana
Day 14: First Peoples Buffalo Jump, Montana
Day 15: Blackfeet Indian Reservation | Browning | Glacier National Park, Montana
Day 16: Flathead Indian Reservation | National Bison Range, Montana
Day 17: Salmon | Sacajawea Interpretive Center, Idaho
Day 18: Salmon | Sacajawea Interpretive Center, Idaho
Day 19: Nez Perce National Historic Park, Idaho
Day 20: Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, Idaho
Departure Gateway – Seattle (SEA)

Native American Culture

Day-by-day Itinerary

Catch a connecting flight into Denver International Airport (DEN) for your arrival day into the region. Relax, catch up on sleep, and prepare for your big adventure through the region!

Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum; credit Wyoming Office of Tourism

Activities:

Since 1897, Cheyenne has celebrated its Old West roots with the eye-popping Cheyenne Frontier Days festival. The centerpiece of this Western celebration is the world’s largest outdoor rodeo, which draws top professionals who compete for more than $1 million in cash and prizes. Complementing the daily rodeo action are behind-the-chutes tours, trick riding and a wild-horse race. A Native American Village, an old frontier town, a saloon, dancing, a chuck wagon cook-off, pancake breakfasts and an art show carry through the frontier theme. Rounding out the program are a carnival midway, an air show, top-name entertainment, professional bull riding shows and several parades that include antique carriages and automobiles. Cheyenne’s world-class rodeo is truly the Daddy of ‘em All.

The history of the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration comes alive at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum. A premier cultural and historical center, the Museum offers year-round education programs and rotating historic artifact exhibits that celebrate the heritage of the American West and the thrilling history of the America’s first extreme sport.

Overnight: Cheyenne

Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary; credit Wyoming Office of Tourism

Activities:

Sitting in Wyoming’s Wind River Basin is the Wind River Indian Reservation. The seventh largest reservation in the United States, it encompasses more than 2.2 million acres and is home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes. It’s home to 240 lakes, hundreds of miles of rivers and streams and some of the state’s most special places.

Located inside the Wind River Hotel & Casino, the Northern Arapaho Experience Room tells the story of the Northern Arapaho people through paintings, pictures, video and artifacts.

Located outside of Lander is the Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary. Home to 130 mustangs, visitors can schedule guided tours where they can tour the ranch and learn about the horses.

Starting at the town of Shoshoni and ending just north of Thermpolis, the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway (U.S. Highway 20) takes travelers through the Wind River Canyon and the Wind River Indian Reservation. Within view are the red rocks of Owl Creek Mountains, the deep blue waters of Boysen Reservoir and the 2,500 vertical feet of rock walls on either side of the canyon.

Each year, powwows include the Eastern Shoshone PowWow in June, the Ethete Celebration & PowWow in July and the Northern Arapaho PowWow in September.

Overnight: Riverton or Lander

Bighorn Medicine Wheel; credit Wyoming Office of Tourism

Activities: 

On your way from the Wind River Indian Reservation stop by Legend Rock State Petroglyph Site to view over 300 petroglyphs spanning a time-period of thousands of years. These petroglyphs introduce you to multiple cultures and eras long past.

Next stop is the Medicine Wheel Passage Scenic Byway, the northern-most route across the Bighorn National Forest in the Big Horn Mountains. This two-lane paved highway follows one of the highest routes in the state, providing home to a variety of habitat – deer, elk, blue grouse and more.

Afterwards, head towards the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark. The 23 meter diameter Medicine Wheel and the surrounding landscape constitute one of the most important and well preserved ancient Native American sacred site complexes in North America. Numerous contemporary American Indian traditional use areas and features, including ceremonial staging areas, medicinal and ceremonial plant gathering areas, sweat lodge sites, altars, offering locales and fasting (vision quest) enclosures, can be found nearby. In addition to seeing an important part of history, visitors to the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark will enjoy traveling through Bighorn National Forest.

Overnight:  There are several campgrounds around the Bighorn National Forest, or overnight in Shell, WY.

Devils Tower National Monument; credit Wyoming Office of Tourism

Activities:

Devils Tower National Monument, which looms more than 365 meters above Wyoming’s eastern plains, is a one-of-a-kind natural wonder. Check out the Devils Tower Visitor Center to learn more about the tower’s geology, star gazing activities, as well as the culture and history of the area through historical photos and other displays. Hike along eight miles of nature trails near the monument, or climb it! The tower’s sheer rock faces and hundreds of columns and cracks are a siren song for climbers.

Visit during the summer for the National Park Service’s Summer Cultural Program to hear speakers on a variety of subjects. And on select evenings, there’s also a Full Moon Walk that begins as dusk for hikers with flashlights.

Fish in the Belle Fourche River. Look for black bullhead, channel catfish and the area’s famed walleye. Visitors can also check out one of five prairie dog species of the Great Plains at the prairie dog village. This awesome opportunity can be found in the floodplain that runs along the main park road. Visitors can see the dirt mounds that the animals construct for dens, and the low vegetation that is used for optimal safety features for the colony.

Overnight: Hulett or Sundance

Crazy Horse Memorial; credit South Dakota Tourism

Activities:

Bear Butte, a 1,200-foot tall geological formation a mile outside of the Black Hills, offers an expansive view of its surroundings. An easy hike takes you around Bear Butte Lake, and a more challenging hike takes you to the summit on a 1.8 mile-long trail. The mountain is a sacred place to the Lakota, Cheyenne and all the indigenous tribes of the Northern Plains, which still use Bear Butte as a place of worship.

Located in Rapid City, The Journey Museum and Learning Center brings together five major prehistoric and historic collections to tell the complete story of the western Great Plains from the perspective of the Lakota people, the pioneers that shaped history, and the scientists that currently study the area. After the museum, visit The Prairie Edge Trading Company and Galleries store featuring traditional and contemporary Native American art, crafts and music as well as craft supplies and dried herbs.

Head into the Black Hills and visit the amazing Crazy Horse Memorial. Once complete, this memorial to Lakota leader Crazy Horse, and to all North American Indians, will be the largest mountain carving in the world. In addition to the sculpture itself, Crazy Horse memorial provides, educational and cultural programming to visitors about Native American people through the Indian Museum of North America and the Native.

Overnight: Hill City

Badlands National Park; credit South Dakota Tourism

Activities:

The hauntingly beautiful landscape of Badlands National Park arises mysteriously from the surrounding prairie. The Badlands are a geological wonder featuring a maze of buttes, canyons and gullies formed by millions of years of erosion. It is the only national park providing basic lodging in a beautiful setting.

Journey to the edge of the Badlands to the Pine Ridge reservation and visit the Pine Ridge Visitor Center which features Lakota art and wildlife displays as well as travel information.

Located south of Porcupine on BIA 27, the Wounded Knee Memorial burial ground is considered sacred. Visitors are reminded to be respectful during their visit.

The Red Cloud Indian School and Heritage Center is a Native American gift shop, cultural center and fine arts gallery that features one of the most impressive collections of historic and contemporary Native art in the country. And the Oglala Lakota College Historical Center provides a site for higher education on the Pine Ridge reservation. The accredited college stocks a variety of Native American literature in the bookstore. Visitors can see historical photographs and artwork displays.

Overnight: Badlands National Park/Wall

Dignity Statue; credit South Dakota Tourism

Activities:

Head east across South Dakota and stop at the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center in Chamberlain. This museum provides visitors with a living lesson on the Native American way of life both past and present. Visitors benefit from a mini-theater, interactive displays, English-Lakota descriptions, an outdoor Medicine Wheel Garden and a gift shop featuring a unique selection of Native American-made products.

Also in Chamberlain is the breathtaking Dignity: of Earth and Sky. This stainless steel, 50-foot-tall statue of a Native American woman was specifically designed to honor the cultures of the Lakota and Dakota people.

The Prehistoric Indian Village & Archeodome is located just off Interstate 90 at Mitchell, South Dakota. The Indian Village entices visitors to imagine what it was like to live in a 1,000-year-old former plains village. The Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village includes a museum and archeodome covering six-acres and overlooks the west bank of Lake Mitchell.

The World’s Only Corn Palace is located in the heart of Mitchell. It is redecorated annually with new corn, grain and grass to showcase a new themed mural that covers the outside of the entire building.

Overnight: Mitchell

Good Earth State Park at Blood Run; credit South Dakota Tourism

Activities:

Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, South Dakota’s newest state park, is a National Historic Landmark. The river, abundant wildlife and wood for fuel, fertile flood plains, availability of catlinite (pipestone) and protection from winds made the area a crossroads of Native American civilization from 1300 – 1700 AD and possibly even longer. The site is a time capsule of Indigenous culture. No other Oneota site of such size and integrity is known to exist in the United States. 

When the Dakota settled in northeastern South Dakota, they encountered a wooded area, or hollow, filled with unusual occurrences. Glowing tree stumps, moaning sounds and a stream that ran red, led the Dakota to call this enchanted hollow “sica,” which means “bad.” Today, Sica Hollow State Park is known for its hiking and horseback riding trails and it is located 15 miles northwest of Sisseton.

Song to the Great Spirit building at Sisseton Wahpeton College is a unique building in Agency Village. It’s built in the shape of four drummers sitting around a drum, and can be seen from Interstate 29.

Situated in the 1880’s two-story home of former South Dakota Governor Frank Farrar, the Prayer Rock Museum in Marshall County features “the estimated 4,600-year-old imprints of the Prayer Rock, the only known prehistoric Indian petroglyph of its kind in the world.”

Overnight: Sisseton

United Tribes Technical College International Powwow; credit North Dakota Tourism.jpg

Activities:

The Bismarck-Mandan area has welcomed visitors since Lewis and Clark paddled up the Missouri River in 1804. The capital of North Dakota, Bismarck is a hub of culture, history and shopping. Don’t miss attractions like the Dakota Zoo, the North Dakota Heritage Center and State Museum and Fort Abraham Lincoln.

Annual events in Bismarck-Mandan include the Mandan Rodeo Days and United Tribes International Powwow. Powwows often have religious significance, but are also a time for people to gather, sing, dance, feast, pray, renew old friendships and make new ones. The Grand Entry opens the parade of dancers and is a time for contestants to score points by displaying their style and regalia. The United Tribes Powwow is held each year during the second weekend of September.

Located on the State Capital grounds off Exit 159 on I-94 in Bismarck, the North Dakota Heritage Center is the headquarters of the State Historical Society of North Dakota and the largest museum in the state. It features temporary and permanent exhibits that explore the story of life on the northern plains from prehistory to the present.

Listen to stories of daily life in Native American tribes, see where they lived, and examine artifacts. The museum is open from 8am until 5pm 7 days a week year-round. Admission is free, donations are welcome.

Overnight: Bismarck

On-A-Slant Indian Village; credit North Dakota Tourism

Activities:

History stares back from the Fort Abraham Lincoln blockhouses on the bluffs to the southwest and boats ply the Missouri River, which separates Bismarck and Mandan. Fort Abraham Lincoln includes many historic attractions, including On-A-Slant Indian Village, a 400-year-old Mandan Village that thrived for more than 200 years. Tour five reconstructed earthlodges, the Custer House, granary, commissary storehouse, barracks and stables. Fort McKeen was the original Fort site on top of the bluff overlooking the Missouri River. Once an infantry post, it was decommissioned following the US Civil War. Interpretation is available onsite at the Custer House and On-A-Slant village. Enjoy great hiking trails, campground with cabins and a tipi for overnight options.

Just north of Bismarck is Double Ditch Indian Village State Historic Site. This site contains ruins of a large Mandan Indian earthlodge village believed to have once been inhabited for nearly 300 years until 1781.

The ruins of an ancient Indian village last occupied in 1845 by the Hidatsa and Mandan is known as the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site and is the site where Lewis and Clark met Sakakawea in 1804. The site now has a modern museum, visitor center, Hidatsa earthlodge and the remains of three Hidatsa villages with 210 depressions.

Overnight: Bismarck or Minot (on way to Turtle Mountain)

International Peace Garden; credit North Dakota Tourism

Activities:

Tribal nations are an essential part of North Dakota’s history. All are welcome to explore the reservations and experience Native American culture by learning about each tribe’s history, language and traditions.

The Turtle Mountain Reservation is in the wooded, rolling hills of north-central North Dakota. Attractions include: Turtle Mountain Scenic Byway, Turtle Mountain Heritage Center, Sky Dancer Casino and Resort, Chippewa Downs and the Keplin Fest and Ryan Keplin Summerfest.

Since 1932, nestled in the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota and Manitoba Canada, the International Peace Garden is one of the continent’s most symbolic and scenic attractions – a tribute to peace and friendship between the people of the United States of America and Canada. The garden encompasses 2,300 acres of nature’s beauty, two pristine freshwater lakes, the phenomenal Formal Garden, scenic hiking and driving trails, wildflowers, waterfalls, and a large variety of North American birds and animals. Modern and rustic camping facilities are available.

Nestled in the scenic Turtle Mountains along the U.S./Canadian border, Lake Metigoshe State Park is one of the most popular year-round vacation spots in North Dakota. The small lakes provide excellent opportunities for fishing, canoeing, boating, and swimming. Visitors can enjoy over 8 miles of trails open to hikers and mountain bikes. During the winter, spend the day cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and ice fishing. Visit the Lake Metigoshe Outdoor Learning Center, which offers programming on history, nature, and recreation.

Overnight: Belcourt

Crow Flies High Observation Point; credit North Dakota Tourism

Activities:

The Mandan and Hidatsa, and later Arikara tribes lived peaceful lives in earthlodges along the Knife and Missouri Rivers.  Now known as the MHA Nation or Three Affiliated Tribes, their home is on The Fort Berthold Reservation, which straddles the north and south shores of Lake Sakakawea. In addition to many traditional powwow, the Fort Berthold Reservation has many interesting and historic attractions.

While on the reservation, make sure you cross the Four Bears Bridge, a unique structure that bares aesthetic features selected by and representing the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes. On the top of the Crow Flies High Observation Point you can take in the breathtaking view of Lake Sakakawea, the bluffs in the Badlands and the foundations of the underwater town of Sanish. Stop at the Three Tribes Museum, which is dedicated to the history of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara through artifacts. A sobering stop is the Old Scouts Cemetery where you can pay tribute to Native Americans who served their country in times of war and peace, including the Arikara/Sanish warriors who served as scouts for Custer in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The Earth Lodge Village provides education on the culture and history of the MHA Nation to guests from around the world.

Overnight: New Town or Watford City

Crow Fair; credit Montana Office of Tourism

Activities:

Today’s drive takes you an hour outside of Billings to the Crow Reservation and the site of the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. The monument memorializes the site of the battle which took place on June 25-26, 1876 between the United States Seventh Cavalry Regiment led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, and the Sioux and Cheyenne under the political and spiritual leadership of Sitting Bull. The Museum features exhibits of the history of the battle, Custer, weapons, archaeology, Plains Indian life, and a walking tour with interpretive markers. Ranger programs are scheduled throughout the summer, and bus tours of the battlefield operate from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

The Crow Fair Celebration is the largest Native American event in Montana, and one of the biggest powwows in the country. It is held each year in Crow Agency, Montana, by The Apsáalooke People of the Crow Indian Reservation just south of Hardin, Montana. Also known as the “Tipi Capital of the world,” Crow Fair begins on the third Thursday in August and attracts more than 50,000 spectators and participants from the around the world.

Continue to Billings, which is the largest city in Montana and is settled on the banks of the Yellowstone River. It boasts a bustling historic downtown with several delicious eateries and microbreweries all within walking distance.

Overnight:  Billings

Livingston; credit Montana Office of Tourism

Activities:

Begin the morning by continuing your exploration of Billings. Grab an early breakfast and head west on Interstate-90 toward Livingston. This spectacular interstate drive takes you along the Yellowstone River and past several mountain ranges and the charming towns of Livingston, Bozeman and Helena, as you make your way toward Great Falls.

A must-stop on this route is the First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park. The archaeological site is believed to be the largest bison cliff jump in North America. Native peoples used this site for at least two thousand years prior to Lewis and Clark’s expedition through Montana. The kill site consists of a mile-long sandstone cliff; there are remnants of drive lines on top of the cliff and there are up to 5 meters of compacted buffalo remains below the cliff. The park has a visitor center, interpretive trail, picnic tables and a protected black tailed prairie dog town to help the visitor better understand the epic history of hunting on the high plains.

Arrive in Great Falls, an authentic Western town located in the foothills of Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front Range and along the Missouri River.

Overnight: Great Falls

Blackfeet Reservation; credit Montana Office of Tourism

Activities:

Before leaving Great Falls consider a stop at the C.M. Russell Museum. This famed western artist is known for painting from the perspective of the native American and all his artwork has a story to tell.

Travel North along the Rocky Mountain Front where you will have fabulous views of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains meeting the plains. The Blackfeet Reservation is in northwestern Montana along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Its one-and-a-half million acres are bordered on the north by Canada and on the west by Glacier National Park.  Stop at the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning. A permanent exhibition gallery, this presents a rich collection of historic arts created by tribal people of the Northern Plains.

Take an interpretive tour with Sun Tours within Glacier National Park, known by local tribal people as the Backbone of the World. This Native American-owned tour company is headquartered in East Glacier Park. Its knowledgeable Blackfeet guides excite visitors with tales about the Blackfeet Tribe’s historical and cultural connection to the local area and national park.

Overnight: Browning, East Glacier or in Glacier Park on the East Side, or Whitefish or Kalispell on the west side.

National Bison Range; credit Montana Office of Tourism

Activities:

In the heart of western Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation is a unique cultural center, built by the region’s original creators of the fine arts and crafts: the Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille peoples. It is more than a museum; it is a vital, living encounter with Native American culture. The People’s Center in Pablo features tribal artifacts on display to educate and share stories, educational programs, history presentations and a gift shop with locally made crafts including beadwork, moccasins and more.

Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi in the lower 48 states, with over 200 square miles of water and 185 miles of shoreline. Recreation on and around the lake includes sailing, power boating, waterskiing, swimming, fishing, picnicking, and camping. In the summer, roadside stands along the east shore offer a variety of locally grown cherries, apples, plums, and other fruits.

Take time to stop at the National Bison Range to view a bison herd. The 18,500-acre range was established to support a population of American bison and is home to about 350-500 of these animals. Other large wildlife including pronghorn, deer, elk and over 200 species of birds can be found here. Because of its open grasslands, the Bison Range is a place for the public to enjoy some excellent wildlife observation and photography.

Overnight: Polson on the Flathead Indian Reservation or Missoula

Sacajawea Interpretive Cultural Educational Center; credit Idaho Tourism

Activities:

Discover and honor the story of Sacajawea, the historic and infamous Agaidika Lemhi Shoshone women who helped guide the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural & Educational Center in Salmon is dedicated to her memory and information about the Lewis & Clark Expedition and Agaidika Shoshone-Bannock. The lush 71-acre park features an interpretive center, artifacts, scenic walking trails and special summer programming.

Overnight: Salmon

Nez Perce National Historic Park Visitor Center; credit Idaho Tourism

Activities:

Walk in the steps of history along iconic trails rooted in the stories of Native American culture at Nez Perce National Historic Park. Established in 1965, the park stretches across 34 sites in four states with its headquarters and visitor center in Spaulding, Idaho. Take a journey back in time to follow the story of the Nez Perce Flight of 1877, the 126-day journey across four states. Discover the legends of Nez Perce who were forced to leave their land when their reservation was reduced to one-tenth of its original size after the 1863 Treaty. Historic sites, archeological remains, interpretive trails, museum exhibits and films offer a look into the 10,000-year history of the Nimiipuu people.

Overnight: Lewiston

Activities:

Nez Perce Tourism provides a truly authentic experience to connect with the culture of the Nimiipuu people. Visitors can immerse themselves in the customs of this native culture through interactive storytelling, land and water excursions, food, song, drum and dance. Tours include visits to historical sites, jet boat tours and traditional dinners.

Visit the Appaloosa Museum & Heritage Center to learn the deep history of the Appaloosa and the horse breed iconic to Idaho. Make your way through exhibits, hands-on activities, historical archives to see early evidence of spotted horses in art and literature and the connection between Appaloosa and the Nez Perce tribe.

Overnight: Moscow

Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes; credit Idaho Tourism

Activities:

Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes is a 72-mile paved path through the center of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s Aboriginal Territory. Starting in Plummer and stretching across and along the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, the trail is perfect for a leisurely bike ride. Along the way, catch glimpses of eagles, deer, elk and other wildlife amongst the pine and fir trees.

Visit in July to get the full Native American experience at the Coeur d’Alene Julyamsh Powwow. This annual event features over 600 tribal dancers and 60 drum groups from across the U.S. and Canada. Enjoy the spectacle of a horse parade with horses and riders in full regalia.

Take in the scenic rolling hills of the Palouse at the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort in Worley and learn more about the traditions of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. Cultural tours are available covering activities from beading and cedar bark workshops, painting and dinners complete with storytelling, dance and drum.

Overnight: Worley

Drop off your rental car and make your way to Seattle International Airport (SEA) to head back home with a new set of memories to take with you!