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Tribal Tourism Development on American Indian Reservations in the Western United States Public Deposited

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  • In their search for viable economic development opportunities, many American Indian tribes have focused their attention toward tourism development on their reservation lands. In many cases, the greatest potential for economic development and attracting income to the reservations lies in tourist trade. Although tourism may not be a tribe's primary income, oftentimes it either contributes substantially to tribal revenues or significantly as a supplement to other tribal enterprises. In pursuing tourism development, many American Indian tribes are asserting a measure of economic independence by capitalizing on two of their most valuable assets, the natural scenic beauty of their lands and their unique Native American cultures. In response to an interest exhibited by outsiders, many reservation tribes have constructed resort and recreation facilities that extend the amenities of the reservation to visitors. As a result, visitors are, at least theoretically, given the opportunity to learn about the rich Native American cultural heritage, while contributing to the reservation economies. During the past several decades, a number of American Indian tribes in the West have come to realize the advantages and benefits of a tribally controlled and refined tourism market and have begun to capitalize on it. The varying degrees of economic independence that tourism development has endowed on numerous American Indian reservation tribes has heightened a sense of pride, self-esteem and self-determination. In other cases, however, attempts at tourist development have been unrewarding financially and/or socially. The purpose of this paper is to ascertain the progress toward tourism development on American Indian reservations in the western United States (see Map I). The materials assembled and information presented in this paper are taken from published sources, supplemented by information resulting from letters of inquiry, interviews and returned questionaires from 49 of the 161 reservation tribal managers or councils queried by mail. A copy of the questionaire is included as Appendix A. Data sources of information on tourism development, supplementing the references are listed in Appendix B.
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