PALM SPRINGS, CA – State officials and tribal leaders joined non-profit organization Visit California in unveiling a new statewide initiative designed to showcase California’s vibrant Native communities and cultural tourism experiences to travelers from around the world. The announcement was made at the site of the future Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza in downtown Palm Springs.
“Visit California is honored to create a platform that showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Native Americans who have called this place home for thousands of years,” said Caroline Beteta, Visit California President & CEO. “We are committed to partnering with California’s tribes and creating spaces to uplift and honor their voices, communities and cultures.”
Home to more than 100 federally recognized tribes, California’s Native culture is woven into the fabric of its communities. Visit Native California will be a vital source of information on all of the cultural tourism experiences visitors can find across the state including museums and cultural centers, outdoor experiences like hiking and boating, restaurants, and tasting rooms to name a few.
Visit Native California is funded by a federal grant awarded as part of the American Rescue Plan Act to help the communities hardest hit by the pandemic. The grant earmarks $1 million to increase awareness of and travel to the state’s cultural heritage tourism experiences.
The funding will allow Visit California to create and share stories on the Visit Native California platform, which will be housed online at VisitCalifornia.com. Stories will celebrate the spirit and diversity of California’s people and promote visitation to tribes’ cultural heritage tourism experiences.
Native storytellers will help expand the California Responsible Travel Code’s emphasis on preserving the state’s cultural heritage and natural resources, while bolstering the people who provide and promote Native experiences across the state.
“As the state with the highest population of Native Americans, and one of the nation’s leading tourism destinations, California is poised to drastically boost national Native tourism promotion and interest with this undertaking,” said Sherry Rupert, CEO of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association. “We’ve seen the economic benefits that come from uniting under a common banner, but more importantly we see the power of cultural tourism to support preservation and perpetuation of our culture. This is a tremendous opportunity for California’s tribes.”
The site of the announcement at the Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza was a symbolic nod to what is expected to be a jewel in the crown of California’s vast offerings of Native experiences. Expected to open in spring 2023, the plaza will feature the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, the Spa at Séc-he and an outdoor Oasis Trail.
“The Agua Caliente people have been deeply dedicated to bringing California’s tribal nations together to promote our shared history and a bright future that we are eager to share with our California family and visitors alike,” said Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Chairman Reid D. Milanovich. “Today marks a great new chapter for California.”
Tribal leaders from across California joined statewide officials and national Native advocates in announcing the Visit Native California platform, and sharing with journalists a sampling of the state’s vast array of offerings.
The Yurok Tribe in Northern California, for instance, maintains its territory in the majestic redwood forest and coastline, as well as the Klamath River. The tribe operates a busy visitors center in Klamath and leads tours of the river in jet boats and dugout redwood canoes.
“A visit to Yurok Country awakens the senses, and you will feel at one with the river, ocean and forest,” said Yurok Vice Chairman Frankie Myers. “There is no other place on Earth like it and adventurers come to take in the majesty of this place and our ancient traditions. Visit Native California will make it possible to share the Yurok story with the world in ways never before possible.”