TRIBAL WAYS: Native American Cultural Centers


An independent theater in Tacoma, Washington, airs the following acknowledgment spoken in the Lushootseed language before the screening of every film: “The Grand Cinema gratefully acknowledges that we rest on the traditional lands of the Puyallup People where they make their home and speak the Lushootseed language.”

Words, such as these, expressed in theaters, galleries, concerts and other public gathering places around the Northwest remind of the original stewards of lands we tread upon. Signage in Native languages, such as Lushootseed, expose us to the traditional languages that are gaining strength and fluency among many Tribal members. These are bright spots on the cultural horizon that invite us to delve deeper into the history and cultures of the Northwest’s indigenous people and emerge richer and more informed as a result.

Several Native Tribes in the Northwest share their stories and legacies through cultural centers that the public is invited to explore. These centers are more than museums; they are important facilities with resources for Tribal members to sustain their cultural heritage. The public galleries in these Tribal cultural centers are expertly curated and designed in ways that enhance the visitor experience. Here are some of the best Native American Cultural Centers in the Northwest.


Upon entering the Hibulb Cultural Center, visitors are greeted by two massive welcome poles. With 23,000 square feet of exhibition space and a 50-acre natural history preserve, Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve introduces visitors to the legacy and lifeways of the Tulalip people. The Center features a permanent exhibit and temporary exhibits where the stories are told in both English and Lushootseed. Visitors can enter a replica of a longhouse for a close view of a traditional dwelling and ceremonial center, where they can listen to recorded stories and legends of the Tulalip people. Interactive displays offer a historic perspective of the various bands that make up the Tulalip Tribes. The Hibulb Cultural Center is easily accessible from Interstate 5 less than an hour north of Seattle.

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Stay at Tulalip Resort Casino,


The Yakama Nation Museum is one of the first Native American museums in the United States. The iconic structure towers 76 feet, and, inside, visitors can experience the history and culture of the Yakama Nation in 12,000 square feet of exhibition space. The Yakama Nation consists of 14 diverse bands and tribes from the region; the museum tells the story of how they came together as one nation, tells of the traditional customs and lifeways of the Yakama people and their relationship to their lands. The Yakama Nation Museum is located in Toppenish, Washington, about 2.5 hours from Seattle.

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The Squaxin Island Tribal members are known as The People of the Water; they have traditionally called the seven inlets of South Puget Sound home. A main feature of the Squaxin Island Museum is the Hall of the Seven Inlets, which tells the story of the People of the Water through exhibits and displays that are unique to each of the inlets, connecting the Squaxin Island Tribal members to the water and surrounding lands. The museum also features artifacts recovered from an ancient fishing site. The Squaxin Island Museum is located on Tribal land near Shelton, Washington, about 75 miles from Seattle.

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Overnight at Little Creek Casino Resort,


An archaeological discovery on the Washington coast was the impetus for creation of the Makah Museum. This remarkable facility displays numerous 300- to 500-year-old artifacts excavated at the Ozette archaeological site. These artifacts are organized in displays that demonstrate the tools and adaptations the Makah people traditionally made to sustain life in this forested coastal environment. Besides the numerous displays and historical photographs, visitors will find dioramas and replicas of a longhouse and whaling and sealing canoes. The museum is located in the Makah Nation in Neah Bay, Washington, about 165 miles west of Seattle.

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TAMÁSTSLIKT CULTURAL INSTITUTE, Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla Tribes

At Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, visitors enjoy interactive exhibits that tell the stories and traditions of the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla Tribes. The permanent exhibits—We Were, We Are, and We Will Be—represent the Tribes’ past, present and future aspirations.

Tamástslikt Cultural Institute is located just outside of Pendleton, Oregon, about 3.5 hours east of Portland.

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Stay at Wildhorse Resort and Casino,

MUSEUM AT WARM SPRINGS, The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

The 25,000-square-foot Museum At Warm Springs preserves the culture, history and traditions of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Visitors first encounter the striking architecture of the museum and, inside, can explore the permanent exhibits that tell the Tribe’s stories of through a vast collection of tribal artifacts and historic photos. Changing exhibits rotate throughout the year, so visitors discover something new with each visit. On the museum grounds an amphitheater hosts outdoor performances and demonstrations, such as traditional dance. The Museum at Warm Springs is located on Highway 26 about an hour north of Bend, Oregon, and about two hours from Portland.

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ALASKA NATIVE HERITAGE CENTER, Represents all Alaska Native cultures

The largest Native cultural center in Alaska, the Alaska Native Heritage Center represents the culture and traditions of all indigenous groups from the five Native regions of the state. Visitors learn about the diverse Alaska Native cultures and traditions, witness performances of traditional dance and competitive games, visit replicas of traditional dwellings for each Native group and much more. Alaska Native Heritage Center is a must-see when visiting Anchorage.

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SEALASKA HERITAGE INSTITUTE, Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures

Visitors to Sealaska Heritage Institute in downtown Juneau find themselves immersed in the traditions and art of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples of Southeast Alaska. The museum includes Native art exhibitions, a hand-adzed cedar clan house and more. Visitors learn about Southeast Alaska history and how the indigenous people of Alaska’s Inside Passage have adapted to their marine, mountain and forest environments. The institute is expanding with a new Arts Campus, which will make Juneau a significant Northwest Coast arts capital.

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In Ketchikan, Alaska, the art of carving totems is very much alive. About 2 miles south of Ketchikan, Saxman Village is the home of around 400 people, most of whom are Tlingit. The village consists of several totems, a clan house and a carving workshop. At Saxman, Tlingit traditions and customs survive, and visitors are welcome to visit the village. Traditional dance performances take place in the clan house, and carving demonstrations take place in the workshop, where visitors can watch Tlingit carvers at work.

Ketchikan has the largest collection of totems in the world, and the Totem Heritage Center is an excellent place to view a vast collection of historic totems.

In Ketchikan, stay at Cape Fox Lodge, which is owned by a Tlingit corporation. Totems, art pieces and photographs adorn the lodge, immersing guests in Tlingit culture and history.

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Learn more about the Totem Heritage Center at

and about Ketchikan and Saxman Village at 


Some Native American cultural centers on Tribal lands have experienced temporary closures to ensure the health and safety of Tribal members. Go to the Center’s website to check if they are open before planning your visit.