“Travel Guide to Oregon Indian Country,” recently released by Travel Oregon, is a collaboration with Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes that highlights tourism assets and cultural resources around tribal lands.
“We wanted the guide to really help visitors understand and really respect the attractions on the near tribal lands and have people really see where tribes have invested in ways to welcome visitors,” said Lisa Itel, director of global strategic partnerships at Travel Oregon.
The guide features profiles on each of the nine tribes: the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Burns Paiute Tribe, Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, Coquille Indian Tribe, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, the Klamath Tribes, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.
It aims to provide inspiration for visiting tribal regions and includes information on tribal museums, casinos, outdoor activities and events.
“We’ve been welcoming people here to this country for about 250 years, and a number of tribes in Oregon have actually built facilities now to welcome people to Oregon and allow them to spend money in our communities,” Tamástslikt Cultural Institute director Bobbie Conner said. “Tribes are restoring economic stability in our communities.”
‘Driven by the tribes’
Travel Oregon published a similar guide in 2005, but it felt there were key voices missing from the conversation, Itel said. In 2019, Travel Oregon reached out to the tribes in hopes of building a relationship. Those conversations sparked the idea to pull together a work group to create a new travel guide.
The process of creating this guide was more collaborative, said Conner, who is enrolled at the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla.
She said this time there was more dialogue about how each tribe wanted the guide to come together, and there was a deeper investment in building community around tourism goals.
“That’s something that was really important to us,” Itel said. “Making sure that this guide was really driven by the tribes.”
The individuality of each tribe was an important aspect to convey, said Travis Hill, chief operating officer for Umpqua Indian Development Corporation and a member of the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians.
The guide needed to represent the diversity of the entire state, he said. They didn’t want to focus on one tribe or one area.
“We wanted people to be able to distinguish the regions, distinguish the tribes and see that there are nine different federally recognized tribes in Oregon and we are each very different from one another,” Conner said.
Travel Oregon originally printed 100,000 copies of the guide and has already distributed about 35,000 copies, Itel said.
Raising awareness of the tribes
Conner said that along with attracting new visitors, another goal is to raise awareness of the tribes. She said the partnership with Travel Oregon opens doors for other projects and collaboration down the line.
“Now that Travel Oregon knows who we are, what we do, how to communicate with us, I think that that will make inroads into the industry,” she said.
Along with producing the guide, Travel Oregon also expanded its footprint of tribal content online. The website has a new Tribal Nations page that lists tribal trip ideas, attractions, events and more by tribes via region.
Future collaborations are something Hill hopes to see. He said he’d like to revisit the guide and potentially go deeper into some of the other opportunities the tribes are working on.
“There’s these annual events that the public can attend and are welcome to, but it’s one of those things that a lot of times it’s not really posted on Facebook or social media,” said Hill, who is enrolled at the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. “But if we were able to use this as a constant resource or funnel for people to be able to know where to go for that type of information, it could be a good resource.”
Activities on tribal lands
The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde comprises a multitude of Native tribes in the Northwest and is based in the foothills of the coast range, 60 miles southwest of Portland and 40 miles northwest of Salem.
The area offers attractions like Spirit Mountain Casino and the Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center, along with numerous outdoor recreation sites.
Black Rock Mountain, about an hour west of Salem, offers a network of free-ride mountain biking trails. Its trails have even earned the “Epic Ride” designation from the International Mountain Bike Association.
For a calmer outdoor adventure closer to town (15 minutes west of Salem), Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge offers opportunities for birdwatching. The refuge is more than 2,500 acres of marsh and grasslands and is a popular spot for migrating waterfowl.
Camping is offered at Big Buck Campsite, which is located on tribal lands in Grand Ronde. It has campsites available for tents and RVs along with access to several miles of maintained trails.
Further down Interstate 5 is the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. Home to Seven Feathers Casino Resort, the area boasts many other activities included in the guide.
“We’re right in the middle of the Umpqua Valley, so we have Umpqua National Forest with trails abundant, we have some great waterfalls. Crater Lake is in our backyard,” said Hill, “so there’s a lot of outdoor opportunities here.”
Along with hiking, mountain biking and camping, the area also offers renowned fly fishing on the North Umpqua River.