(BPT) - Many people associate Native American tribes and culture with the great plains and western frontiers of the United States. Yet deep in the heartland, Wisconsin is home to more Native American tribes than any other state east of the Mississippi. Eleven tribes dot the state, sharing their land, culture, art and tradition through historic villages, festive pow-wows and scenic landscapes.
The first stewards of Wisconsin's land and waters
While interest in eco-friendly lifestyles is becoming mainstream, the nation's native people were the original stewards of the land. That tradition of stewardship continues in Wisconsin, where the Red Cliff Chippewa opened Frog Bay Tribal National Park in summer 2012, making it the first tribal park ever to open to the public. The land originally belonged to the tribe and, with the help of a nearly half million-dollar grant, they were able to purchase it back to open it to the public. With 89 acres of immaculate forest, the new park offers a quarter mile of sandy beaches, a canopy of rare trees and abundant wildlife.
The Oneida Community Integrated Food Systems (OCIFS), located on the Oneida Nation Reservation, aims to support a healthy community through its locally grown food. Visitors can purchase food and tour the reservation to see herds of grass-fed beef and buffalo, free-range chickens, an orchard, organic gardens and more.
The Bad River Band of Superior Chippewa maintains the home of the largest remaining coastal wild rice marsh in the Great Lakes region: the Bad River and Kakagon sloughs. These beautiful wetlands, often called "Wisconsin's Everglades," are also home to the largest population of bald eagles in the Great Lakes.
The Menominee Nation's 235,000-acre reservation is one of the most sustainable forests in the world. Visitors can appreciate the beauty of the reservation by rafting down the Wolf River or by hiking along forest trails. Be sure to plan your trip around the Menominee Nation Contest Pow-Wow on August 3-5 in Keshena, Wis.
Native American culture
From festivals to living museums, Wisconsin's Native American tribes offer a variety of cultural experiences for visitors. The Lac du Flambeau Chippewa operate the Waswagoning Ojibwe Indian Village, a 20-acre living museum where guests can tour a wigwam, learn how to make a fire Ojibwe-style, test their skills at double-ball and much more. Travelers can also take part in year-round programs like native cooking and crafts at the George W. Brown Jr. Ojibwe Museum & Cultural Center.
Visitors can stop by the Oneida Nation Museum to learn about the rich Oneida culture, arts and history. The tribe emphasizes the healing, unifying and economic power of the arts; in fact, the Oneida Nation Arts Program is the only Native American tribal arts agency in the country.
Pow-wows, featuring colorful pageantry, arts and crafts, traditional food and other festivities, are events that bring people together to celebrate Native American culture. Notable Wisconsin pow-wows include:
* The Honor the Earth Pow-Wow; July 19-22 in Hayward, Wis.
* The St. Croix Wild Rice Pow-Wow; Aug. 24-26 in Danbury, Wis.
* The Ho-Chunk Nation Pow-Wow; Sept. 1-3 in Black River Falls, Wis.
* The Hunting Moon Pow-Wow; Oct. 26-28 in Milwaukee
In addition, the state's largest Native American cultural event, Indian Summer Festival, is held Sept. 7-9 at Henry W. Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee's lakefront. Activities at the event include a traditional pow-wow, fireworks, dance, cultural demonstrations, juried fine art exhibitions and an extensive marketplace.
In addition to eco-friendly initiatives and cultural celebrations, Wisconsin's Native American tribes offer travelers quality entertainment venues from gaming to golf.
Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee offers world-class dining at Dream Dance Steak and is breaking ground on a brand new hotel. Its Northern Lights Theater has hosted musical legends including B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Buddy Guy and Lyle Lovett.
The Red Cliff Chippewa own and operate the Legendary Waters Resort & Casino, which opened in 2011 with stunning views of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands from each room or premier suite, and a state-of-the-art casino.
Ho-Chunk Gaming in the Wisconsin Dells features an impressive meeting and convention center, live events, dining, spa services and more. Oneida Casino in Green Bay offers free shuttles from its main location to its Bingo Hall and Mason Street Casino.
The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation owns and operates Pine Hills Golf, a pristinely manicured course nestled in the beautiful landscape of the Northwoods. Other casinos include Mole Lake Casino in Crandon, operated by the Sokagon Chippewa and the St. Croix Casinos operated by the St. Croix Chippewa in Northwest Wisconsin.
For more information on Native American events and attractions in Wisconsin, visit the Native American Tourism of Wisconsin organization at www.natow.org
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