The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page - WORDS//

The Black­feet Indian Reser­va­tion rolls across the plains just east of Glacier Na­tional Park. There’s a ho­tel and casino. There are gas sta­tions, a few eater­ies and a mu­seum to learn about the cul­ture and his­tory of the peo­ple who have oc­cu­pied the ter­ri­tory long be­fore the ar­rival of the US Cavalry.

These days, hordes of mod­ern-day vis­i­tors roll into the nearby moun­tains, but lit­tle of the money they spend ends up in the busi­ness tills of the reser­va­tion’s com­mu­ni­ties.

While Mon­tana, US, might be known in­ter­na­tion­ally for recre­ational jew­els such as Glacier and Yel­low­stone na­tional parks, Na­tive Amer­i­cans say the state needs to do more to de­velop and pro­mote its vast tribal lands as tourist des­ti­na­tions.

Some politi­cians want the state to in­vest more into draw­ing vis­i­tors to places of his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural im­por­tance to the state’s Indian tribes – not only to spark en­trepreneur­ship but also help out­siders bet­ter un­der­stand Na­tive Amer­i­cans.

“Folks want to come, and they want to see Na­tive Amer­i­can peo­ple, and see our cul­ture, and learn about our his­tory.

“I think that’s go­ing to cre­ate in­come when they come fly­ing in,” says state Sen­a­tor Lea Whit­ford, who rep­re­sents Brown­ing and the Black­feet Indian Reser­va­tion.

Tourism is one of the Mon­tana’s most im­por­tant and lu­cra­tive in­dus­tries, generating more than $US4 bil­lion ($A5.3 bil­lion) an­nu­ally from 12.3 mil­lion vis­i­tors and sup­port­ing nearly 55,000 jobs.

Lit­tle of that money or jobs go to the state’s tribal mem­bers.

Ms Whit­ford and other mem­bers of the Leg­is­la­ture’s Na­tive Amer­i­can cau­cus want im­proved rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the state’s tourism ad­vi­sory coun­cil, which she says might not be aware of the po­ten­tial for cul­tural tourism. They also want a sliver of money gen­er­ated by lodg­ing facility taxes to go to­ward tribal eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

To be sure, many of Mon­tana’s Na­tive Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties lack the in­fra­struc­ture – like ho­tels, restaurants and well-de­vel­oped at­trac­tions and ameni­ties – to be­gin mar­ket­ing them­selves as tourist at­trac­tions. But tribes haven’t re­ceived much help to iden­tify and de­velop op­por­tu­ni­ties, says Sharon Ste­wart-Pere­goy from the Crow Indian Reser­va­tion.

They say it would be a mod­est step to­ward in­cu­bat­ing en­trepreneur­ship on tribal and help com­bat the ram­pant job­less­ness on the state’s seven Indian reser­va­tions.

“Ev­ery­thing seems to be about Yel­low­stone and Glacier,” Ms Ste­wart-Pere­goy says.

“But there’s other places like Lit­tle Bighorn Bat­tle­field and other his­tor­i­cal places, which have sto­ries to tell – and should be told – but can’t be fully ap­pre­ci­ated be­cause the spot­light isn’t there.”

The bat­tle­field marks the site of one the last clashes be­tween the US Army’s 7th Cavalry and the Sioux and Cheyenne In­di­ans.

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