Can I Visit the Reservations?

Monument Valley (UT/AZ border)

The best part of my job is spending time in the remote reservation communities where we work. I leave my visits with our Program Partners and participants envious of the strong family ties and clear connection to culture that are evident among the people. I am inspired by the resourcefulness and resilience I see on every visit as well as the hospitality, generosity and good humor I experience. I am also humbled by the level of poverty many families face.  I know that I am privileged to have lived and worked in Indian country for many years.

Every summer our offices receive calls from the non-Native public wondering whether they can visit a reservation. Some are wondering whether such visits are allowed; others wonder whether permits are required; some are just asking about the best time of year to visit. We wanted to spend a little time on this topic since it is the summer travel season. During the next few weeks we will be posting about some great destinations in and around Indian country that provide education about culture and history as well as exposure to community celebrations and beautiful countryside.

Badlands (SD)

Most Americans have never visited reservations so I want to kick off our tourism posts with a few words on general etiquette and protocol, if you are interested in visiting reservation communities.  All American Indian reservations, villages, and pueblos operate under their own government and may have different rules for visitors. Your general guide should be to exercise common courtesy.

Additional Tips We Can Offer for Visiting the Reservations:

  • All communities contain a diversity of tribal members who practice varying degrees of tradition. Also, while some reservations may have characteristics similar to another, each is home to tribes that have distinct cultures and histories. Therefore, what is acceptable in one community or at one event may not be appropriate at another.
  • Show respect to the people and the rules. Treat the residents with courtesy and observe the signs that have been put in place to preserve the beauty and uniqueness of the land and people. Pay close attention to posted traffic and road signs and do not litter.
  • Be aware of which places are public and which are private or restricted. If you are unsure, do not enter.
  • Do not pick up artifacts or ruins such as pieces of pottery.  This would be inappropriate and Native American remains and artifacts are protected by tribal law and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
  • If you are fortunate enough to be in attendance at a dance or ceremonial event, dress in a modest, kempt, and appropriate manner. Avoid excessive talking, questioning, and applause. Be a respectful observer.  Check in advance whether photography is allowed. If not, by all means respect that rule.
  • Be a polite and attentive listener.
  • If food or a meal is offered to you, be polite and accept it.
  • Alcohol is not permitted on many reservations.
  • Do some research before your trip. Knowing more about the culture, history, and traditions of the people who live on the reservation you plan to visit will enhance your experience and help you avoid mistakes in etiquette. Many tribes have information for visitors on their websites, including a tourism page, a calendar of events that are open to the public, and rules of etiquette or protocol.
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  1. Christiana Mohr
    Posted August 25, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Hello! Thank you for the tips. I’m a young fourth generation American woman of mixed European-Asian descent, and I know very little about Native American tribes, but I’m very eager to learn more. In a few weeks I’ll be traveling from California to Colorado and am planning at least one extended visit on a reservation. I wish there was some sort of online nationwide Native tourism board that could link non-Natives to open stops and inns on reservations or near reservations. I’ve been to one California inter-tribe pow wow (spelling?), the Four Corners attraction, a tribal museum in the southwest and the Hopi Reservation, where I absolutely fell in love with Hopi art. Thank you for this. 🙂

  2. Posted September 20, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    I simply want to mention I am beginner to blogging and certainly enjoyed your page. Almost certainly I’m likely to bookmark your blog post . You certainly have excellent writings. Thank you for sharing with us your website.

  3. Posted November 16, 2015 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    There’s definately a great deal to learn about this issue.
    I love all the points you have made.

  4. Posted March 4, 2016 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    I would love to visit such a place. Wow. I love Indians and the craft.

  5. Scot Faust
    Posted March 22, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    I want to thank you for this information! I am a second generation American of German decent and very much would like to know more about the “real Native American” culture. Not the fake stuff we see in movies and television. I know that many live in poverty and my heart goes out to them. Thank you again!

  6. TODD
    Posted May 5, 2016 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Can a us citizens visit the Indian Reservations? ???

    • Posted May 20, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Todd, thanks for your question and your interest in the Indian reservations in this country. U.S. residents can certainly visit reservations that are open to such visits. Some reservations are more open than others so, before you go, please check the tribe’s website or contact them directly for more information.

  7. Posted May 18, 2016 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    I am Native American. Love nature, it is my god. Not afraid of death. Want to visit my ancestoral history. Beautiful souls! ✌✌

  8. Richard Leppard
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink


    I am from the Uk and am wondering is there such a thing as a two week or so stay at a Native American Reservation or similar. I feel that to get a deeper understanding of the peoples and culture you need to be immersed in it and not dip in and out. Being from the UK, I need to think about a solid satf and not a day or two.

    Many thanks

    Richard L

    • Posted July 15, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Richard, thanks for your note and your interest in learning more about Native American people and their cultures. You might start by checking out our blog topics on “can I visit the reservations” to get some ideas about which tribe(s) you may want to visit.

  9. Claris Mac'Kie
    Posted March 5, 2018 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Looking forward to learning more. Thank you.

  10. Daniel Martinez III
    Posted April 1, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I am interested in visiting a reservation and working on a project at the same time. I would appreciate a response about a scheduled visit and stay. Thank You. Danny Martinez III (USAF,Ret.)

    • Posted April 13, 2018 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Danny, thank you for your interest in Indian Country. To conduct any project on Native lands, you would need to contact the tribe directly and request permission. This pertains to projects that may be published, such as films, photography, books and articles, as well as to other projects taking place on Native lands. Additionally, if the project involves revenue-generation, there may be fees involved. Try starting with the Tribal Administration office, and best of luck with your endeavor.

    • Tigerlily Cross
      Posted March 10, 2019 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Danny, I wonder if you were able to visit & if you have any info on how I can do same. I am US born but not native american but I would love to make others aware of First Americans who could use some opportunity (educational or otherwise).

  11. Posted February 4, 2019 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    What’s up, after reading this awesome post i am
    as well delighted to share my experience here with friends.

  12. Posted February 9, 2019 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Good article! We will be linking too this particularly great content on our
    site.Keep up the great writing.

  13. Posted February 13, 2019 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    Pretty! This has been a really wonderful article.
    Thanks for providing the information.

  14. Posted April 1, 2019 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    Excellent article with a lot of information. It is a great way to explore other countries’ culture. Thanks for sharing this informative post.

  15. Letitia Alvarez
    Posted September 25, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    I am seeking to live near a reservation and transferring my current job so I can continue to work. My idea is to help a reservation out with food and needs. I would do so of course as a volunteer. Looking for nothing in return but friendship. I love the pow wows and was to my first one this past Sunday since I was a kid. How do I find a list of reservations so I can compare the list to my job? I want to find one that isn’t too far from the company I work for.

  16. Kim G
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I am thinking about going to work on an Indian Reservation as a nurse practitioner. Anyone have any advice?

    • Posted October 21, 2019 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      Kim, you might begin by contacting the Indian Health Service for the Native nation you wish to support.

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