Tribal Tourism in North Dakota (Interview)

by Amelia Old
1 comment

*This post is sponsored by North Dakota Tourism however all opinions are my own.


Photo Credit: North Dakota Tourism

There are over 30,000 Native Americans living in North Dakota. While they all have their own languages and even traditions, they remain united by their beliefs and values.  My local hairstylist is originally from ND and is Lakota. I’m always excited to sit in her chair and hear about her childhood and family. I have always been drawn to the culture. Even as a child I found myself reading as much as I could about various tribes. While my ancestors come from all over the world, I have always felt most connected to the part that is Native American.

Photo Credit: North Dakota Tourism

Sixteen years ago I lost a child before he was born. To help me through the grieving process, I felt important to name him to help give him an identity. His name was Dakota. Something I recently learned is that “Dakota” in the Lakota language, “kota/koda” means ‘friend’ or ‘ally’ which immediately brought a smile to my face. The people of North Dakota are excited to welcome you and I both, just as a friend would, to their home to learn about the beauty of their culture.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit South Dakota but did not have near enough time there. I hope to see it’s sister state in the near future. When visiting North Dakota, there are many ways you can get involved with the local tribes to learn more about their culture and their traditions through Powwows, historical sites, and the Buffalo Trails Tour.

Photo Credit: North Dakota Tourism

I was fortunate enough to have Les Thomas and Selina LaFontaine, North Dakota locals, share with me more about tribal tourism and what it means to the community.

Please tell me a little bit about Tribal Tourism in North Dakota.

Les: The North Dakota Native Tourism Alliance was formed to promote, preserve and protect the native cultures of North Dakota. We want to attract world travelers to N.D. and to the tribal nations to experience first hand what we have to offer and develop partnerships to create jobs and have a positive economic impact in N.D. and tribal nations.

SelinaIt is our goal to bring economic development through tourism and to preserve our culture and heritage.

What is the greatest benefit the Native American community receives from this tourism?

Les: Economic development with job creation and educating the world about the Native American Indian Tribe of North Dakota.

SelinaJobs! Better understanding of Native American Reservation Life.

 What is the proper etiquette when visiting a reservation?

 Les: It is appropriate to check with the tourism department, tribal council or elder.

SelinaAt the Powwows the MC will announce what is required of you, same with our sacred sites and our community.

Photo Credit: North Dakota Tourism

What is the message or lesson you want visitors to walk away with after leaving North Dakota?

Les: I want the message to be that the great state of N.D. and the tribal nations of N.D. are working together to provide on-hand experiences to the visitor so they will return and spread the word of our friendly nature.

Selina: We are a friendly state, we have a lot to offer as well as leaving a lasting, memorable experience. Once you have visited us, you’ll want to come back again.

I love sharing inspirational quotes allowing the reader to truly think about their life, challenges, and accomplishments. What would you like to share with those reading this?

 Les: NDNTA wants to tell the stories from the native perspective of what we see through our eyes so that the world will see the direction “Indian Country” is advancing toward.

Selina The accomplishments we have made through the 5 tribes of N.D. is establishing NDNTA. Through this we can have a better relationship with our ND Tourism Industry by coming together to provide a better tourism experience to everyone that visits N.D.

Any final words?

 Les: It is my hope that we all work toward the same goals and objective. We are all in this venture together.

Selina: I want the people to remember that we are connected to nature. We believe in our cultural beliefs today and our doors are always open to everyone who would like to visit us.

Interested in a visit to the friendly state of North Dakota to experience the local Native American culture? Click HERE.


Photo Credit: North Dakota Tourism



Les Thomas – North Dakota Native Tourism Alliance (NDNTA) Board Chair – enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, Vice Chair of the Turtle Mountain Historical Society Board of Directors, Vice Chair of the Turtle Mountain Tourism Association.

Selina LaFontaine – Turtle Mountain Tourism – 17 years in marketing, casino and tourism. Enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. Work closely with the Turtle Mountain Historical Society Board that oversees the Heritage Center. Also, work closely with Les Thomas of NDNTA. I am also on the Promise Zone Advisory Board which helps to develop jobs through tourism.

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1 comment

Shasta Staten April 17, 2017 - 7:13 pm

What a beautiful look into the Lakota culture! I was especially touched by your sharing the personal significance of the name you chose for your son and its meaning in the Lakota language.


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