8 Native American Tribal Lands You Can Visit Today

Many Native American peoples left their original homelands long ago, forced to relocate far from where their tribes were when Europeans arrived. But some still live on the land of their ancestors, sometimes in the same buildings, and you can feel the presence of the ancient ones when you visit. 

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Jemez Pueblo

The Jemez have lived at the village of Walatowa in New Mexico for 500 years. It’s open to the public on tribal feast days. But perhaps the best example of Jemez staying power lies 12 miles down the road at the ruins of a 500-year-old Spanish mission. Long story short, Spaniards arrived in the 1600s to convert the Jemez to Christianity whether they liked it or not. The Jemez said “no thanks” and drove the friars out, leaving the mission to crumble.

Zuni Pueblo

You'€™ll need hiking boots to see everything at Zuni pueblo in New Mexico, a reservation that spreads over a stretch of terrain the size of Rhode Island. The tribe has lived in the area for more than 900 years and offers guided tours of their main town, Middle Village, as well as the ruins of older towns and settlements around the 700-square-mile pueblo. You can eat a traditional Zuni meal or attend a traditional dance on one of the tribe'€™s feast days.

Nez Perce Park

The Nez Perce helped Lewis and Clark survive a brutal winter in 1805. Despite this, the tribe fought and lost the last big Indian battle against the United States a few generations later and was forced to cede most of their homeland. The Nez Perce persevere, and 3,400 tribal members remain on a portion of the tribal lands in Idaho. At Nez Perce Historical National Park, which has sites in four states, you can see animals and terrain central to the tribe’s worldview.

Acoma Pueblo

Acoma Pueblo sits atop a giant rock in New Mexico that’s as tall as a 36-story building. Known as Sky City, it was built nearly 1,000 years ago when a home up high kept one safe from invaders. The village consists of several blocks of two and three-story residential complexes, the adobe equivalent of apartment buildings, with the upper stories only accessible by ladders (as shown). There’s also a 17th century mission church that’s still in use.

Ohkay Owingeh

Imagine this tribe's reaction when conquistadors showed up in 1598 and changed the name of their 400-year-old town to San Juan. It took 407 years to officially change the name back to Ohkay Owingeh, a Tewa word meaning “Village of Strong People.” There are traditional dances throughout the year and you can tour the original village (north of Santa Fe, New Mexico) daily. The residents of the adobe abodes you'll see give their houses a new coat of mud plaster (shown here) every year to keep the walls as strong as the people.

Navajo Nation

The Navajo Nation sprawls across three states (Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah), covering a portion of the tribe’s high desert homeland that’s the size of West Virginia. It’s the biggest reservation in the country and home to classic Western landscapes like Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly, where the Navajo and their ancestors have lived for thousands of years. Hike, camp or spend the night in a traditional dwelling called a hogan to see what it’s like to be Diné, which is Navajo for "Children of God" and the word they use to describe themselves.

Hopi Land

The Hopi have been living atop three mesas in Arizona for around 1,000 years, and many Hopi traditionalists still live there in the same homes as their ancestors. There are a dozen Hopi villages and all are open to the public, but go with a tribal guide. The Hopi are one of the least assimilated tribes in the country and tend to be leery of outsiders. You can’t take photos or notes, go off the main roads, or knock on doors.

Taos Pueblo

This village in northern New Mexico was 600 years old when the Spanish established St. Augustine, the Florida city that claims to be the oldest in the United States. The Taos have been living here for a nearly a millennium. The pueblo includes the famed five-story adobe residential complex, built around 1,000 A.D., remnants of the original exterior defensive wall, kivas (underground chambers that are tribal churches) and a ruined Spanish mission. Guided tours are available daily May through October but the pueblo is closed during religious ceremonies.

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