ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. Cherokee Nation citizen Lisa Snell
recently finished writing and designing a guidebook for the American
Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association and National Park Service
about Native American tribes along the historic Route 66.
The guidebook American Indians & Route 66, as
well as its website, details the histories of more than two dozen
tribal communities along the 2,400-mile byway and their relationships
to the road that helped change the West.
Stretching from Chicago to California, more than half the route
cuts through Indian Country.
Those behind the project said the work was aimed at filling
the gap between reality and the stereotypes once used to lure travelers
along the route, from the billboards that featured Indian figures
wearing war bonnets to staged photo ops and metal teepees.
Tribes now have a venue to tell their own stories, said Snell,
who was tapped by the AIANTA to spend a year traveling the route,
doing research and conducting interviews.
It was an eye-opener even for Snell, who publishes the Native
American Times and Native Oklahoma.
It was so much different from what I had been exposed
to during childhood, growing up watching the Lone Ranger and what
you saw in the advertisements. What I experienced was completely
different from the images and the things I read, she said.
Indians & Route 66 details the histories of more
than two dozen tribal communities along the 2,400-mile byway
and their relationships to the road that helped change the
West. (courtesy photo)
The guidebook was unveiled the first week of May by the tourism
association. It includes stories of how communities were affected
by the commerce that came along with traffic on Route 66.
The book and website also cover the role played by the federal
governments Indian relocation program of the 1950s and how
the romance of the roadway was partly spurred by the marketing of
the Hollywood version of the Indian.
Snell's research and interviews indicated what happened along
America's Mother Road was more about money than the sharing of a
Because of the socio-economic conditions, what do you
do? You take the job, you put on your buckskins, you put on your
war bonnet and you have your picture taken. You do the job,
she said. Thats been perpetrated through today. Its
still that image we have. Its lingering.
Sammye Meadows, who works with AIANTA, said interest in tourism
has grown among tribes now that some have fostered successful programs
for tapping their own cultural resources.
Foreign visitors alone account for an estimated $7 billion in
annual spending in Indian Country and visitation by overseas travelers
has grown by nearly 1 million during the past several years, according
to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Its an evolving thing and I think a lot more stories
will come forward, Meadows said. People will have stories
they would like to contribute to the overall sort of correcting
of the tribal image.
Aside from history that stretches back to the Pueblo Revolt
in the centuries before New Mexico was a state and the creation
of reservations, the guidebook includes details about key sites
along Route 66 both old and new as well as etiquette
for attending powwows and tips for buying arts and crafts.
For more information, visit http://www.americanindiansandroute66.com.