Frequently Asked Questions
About Native America
Do people prefer to be called Native American or Indian?
Often neither! ‘Indian’ may be the way most Indian’s describe themselves, and often each other, but actually the description harks back to when a disorientated Columbus thought he had reached India, and therefore called native people ‘Indians’. Native American is a term that is undermined when some Americans point out that they were born here and therefore are also native to America.
The best way to go is to specify the person’s nation. For example, if you are English, you prefer that description to someone calling you European, and you're unlikely to want to be called French, or German. So it goes with indigenous people – the Lakota nation is sovereign and separate to the Cheyennes, who are also sovereign and different to the Hopis – another sovereign nation who prefer not to be confused with Kiowas, and so forth…
Are Native American Indians friendly – will I feel welcome in their lands?
Indian communities are made up of all kinds od people as with all communities, and traveling alone, you should probably be ready to encounter odd unfriendly comments about continued white encroachment on Indian lands, or people to lapse into their native language to exclude you,
This stuff happens, and it’s not just olde-time history that causes it - modern experiences with tourists can leave some people feeling pretty sour too.
We have heard awful tales about tourists even popping their heads through people’s front doors on the reservation and asking if they can come in and look around!
With Go Native America we are taking you to places and people where you are not just welcome, you are invited.
The people you will meet know us well – they are friends, colleagues and family and they know what Go Native America is about. They welcome the opportunity to meet and share with our visitors.
Are Reservations safe for travelers?
Wouldn’t it be good if you didn’t have to give safety a thought? You do! Please do not be lulled by the stereotypical images of noble peaceful peoples who carry the answers to all this world’s problems within their culture. On the whole you can feel safe in Indian country, but traveling alone you do have to consider normal safety precautions as with any destination you travel!
Traveling with Go Native America know that you will be looked after and we would never put any tour member in an unsafe situation. Please listen to your guides and they will give you the best possible advice as necessary.
What does "tribal sovereignty" mean and why is it so important to Native Americans?
Tribal sovereignty describes the right of federally recognized tribes to govern themselves and the existence of a government-to-government relationship with the United States. Thus a tribe is not a ward of the government, but an independent nation with the right to form its own government, adjudicate legal cases within its borders, levy taxes within its borders, establish its membership, and decide its own future fate. The federal government has a trust responsibility to protect tribal lands, assets, resources and treaty rights.
Will I be able to experience a Native American ceremony on my tour?
Emphatically not! We understand that visitors are often curious about Native American ceremony and ritual, but although your guide may choose to share verbal explanations of some aspects with you, actual participation in ceremonies often takes up to a year of commitment and preparation and is never an ‘activity’ for visitors. A parallel would be a visitor to the Vatican asking if they might become a temporary Cardinal and participate and conduct a service while they are there. One of the biggest taboos, and problems, in Indian Country is the sale of ceremonies. Native American Quests will only act in accordance with the wishes of elders and with traditional tribal etiquette.
Who is a Native American?
As a general principle an Indian is a person who is of some degree Indian blood and is recognized as an Indian by a tribe/village and/or the United States. There exists no universally accepted rule for establishing a person's identity as an Indian and the criteria for tribal membership differs from one tribe to the next. To determine a particular tribe's criteria, you should contact that tribe directly. For its own purposes, the Bureau of the Census counts anyone an Indian who declares to be such. By recent counts, there are more than 2.4 million Native Americans, including Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiians.
But this is a complex issue. For example, an individual may be full-blooded American Indian, with blood from many different tribes, but without enough blood quantum of any specific tribe to meet any tribe’s criteria for membership. Or a person could be able to establish a blood relationship to someone on the Dawes Roll and thus be enrolled despite the most tentative of blood quantum while someone else with a clear 100% of Indian blood may have been born to a family whose ancestors wanted nothing to do with the white invaders, refused to sign up to the Dawes Roll and now all their antecedents have no way of enrolling for the federal government’s system of ‘who is Indian’. The one thing that is for certain is that people coming to Indian Country for the first time may have very specific ideas of who they believe to be Indian, but invariably their inexperience with the issue disqualifies them from making that determination. It is a sensitive and complex issue for many, it runs deep and can rarely be judged by hair color and dark eyes.
Will I see wildlife on my tour?
That one is usually down to the Creator and the time of day. The Four-leggeds and Wingeds have their own schedules and we cannot guarantee anybody a sighting of any particular species, although there are some four-leggeds we can usually find for you.