Alaska With Native American-Owned Operators

Experiencing our 'neighboring' 49th state with Indigenous-owned companies 🏔️

July 30, 2022

Clan house with totem pole in Ketchikan Alaska

📸: Visit Ketchikan

Indigenous culture in Alaska may date back thousands of years, but it’s not a thing of the past, according to Dale Lindstrom, owner of Sitka Tribal Tours. “We have history, but we aren’t just history,” said Lindstrom, a member of the Tlingit Nation that has inhabited the territory of the island city of Sitka for more than 10,000 years. “We continue to use our language and practice our traditions around dance, song, art and food today.”

Sitka Tribal Tours 🥾

The Tlingit staff at Sitka Tribal Tours aims to showcase these very traditions in their modern context with a variety of itineraries ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 hours. One such tour might include a drive through Sitka highlighting historic stops from an Indigenous point of view, including Castle Hill, the site originally inhabited by the Tlingit nation where Alaska was officially transferred from Russia to the U.S., and the colonial Russian Bishop’s House. Physically active travelers might opt for a guided hike through the temperate rainforest of Sitka National Historical Park, where they’ll learn about edible and medicinal plants and salmon life cycles, and interpret towering totems found along the trail. At the end of each tour, Tlingit members invite visitors to a performance in a traditional clan house in Sitka.

Alaskan Dream Cruises 🚢

As the only Indigenous-owned cruise ship Alaskan Dream Cruises plies the waters of southeast Alaska each summer. This distinction not only means they can drop anchor on Indigenous lands, like Hobart Bay—something no other company can do. It also means the multi-day itineraries focus heavily on Indigenous peoples’ millennia-old connection to the land. Itineraries might stop at a clan house in Glacier Bay National Park, or an evening lecture that touches on legends, language, regalia and art from some of the 229 federally recognized Indigenous groups within Alaska. Many Alaskan Dream Cruises itineraries start or end in Juneau, where travelers can also visit the Alaska State Museum and the Sealaska Heritage Institute. The two cultural centers offer displays cataloging the Indigenous history of Alaska, including exhibits on such topics as masks, storytelling, traditional laws and more. This summer, the Sealaska Heritage Institute will open its new Arts Campus, where visitors can experience Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian art with basketry, textile weaving and printmaking programs. The campus will also have space for Alaska Native art markets and performances.

Tundra Tours 🌨️

Found in Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow), the northernmost city in the U.S., Tundra Tours shows guests how the Iñupiat people have long thrived in the harsh conditions of the Arctic. On daylong tours, travelers are guided through a former village site to see the remains of sod huts and historical whaling posts that showcase the Iñupiat’s traditional subsistence lifestyle. They also visit the Iñupiat Heritage Center to experience the Indigenous peoples’ songs, dance and art, much of which is traditionally made of such Arctic materials as carved bone, ivory and baleen. If you’re unable to make it to Utqiagvik, you might also consider visiting the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, for well-curated exhibits on the Iñupiat lifestyle and a recently reimagined gift shop featuring the works of Alaska Native artists from across the state.

If you go 🛫

Both Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines have regular nonstop flights from Seattle to multiple cities in Alaska.

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Bailey Berg is a travel writer for publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, AFAR, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and National Geographic. 

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