Circle of Life: Walk Lightly on Earth with Go Native America

Circle of Life: Walk Lightly on Earth with Go Native America

Go Native America

Mitakuye Oyasin

Go Native America's responsible travel policy is "Mitakuye Oyasin," the final phrase in Lakota prayer which translates to: "We are all related in the Circle of Life – the two-legged, four legged, winged, and all living and growing things upon the Earth."


Go Native America operates in an environmentally-friendly fashion with the utmost respect for the Native American community, employing only Indigenous people as guides, and using tribally owned accommodations for tour members. In an effort to support the local tribal economy, tour guides ensure that guests have the opportunity to purchase arts and crafts directly from the Native American people and tour vehicles are filled with gasoline from stations on the reservation.


In these ways and many more, Go Native America applies a fair trade philosophy and sustainable tourism policies. By simply traveling with Go Native America, guests are making a contribution to the local Native American communities.

Go Native America's Fair Trade Native Tourism

The Indigenous arts and crafts market is flooded with fake sweat-shop jewelry and artworks that are mass produced and not Native, eroding one of the only financial lifelines available to many Native communities on reservations. The Go Native America team ensures that guests have the opportunity to meet Native artists in the local Indigenous community in person and buy arts and crafts directly from the artists. Not only is this good economically for the individual artists and the wider community, it is great for the guests, as they get an intimate look into the Native American culture when they interact with the artists.


Go Native America has the longest list of Indigenous guides employed by any company in North America. The company's policy to only hire local Native American guides is not because of the "Indian Preference in Employment" Act – it's because local tribal people should have the opportunity to define themselves and their own cultures. In many communities, due to the lack of sufficient infrastructure, these guides' seasonal work constitute their families' annual earnings. While tour members can choose their travel in a convenient time period, guides are less fortunate in choosing when to work.


Most tour participants are aware of US political situations through extensive media coverage, but usually are unaware that reservations are self-governed, with sovereignty, and that the political scene is not the same at each of the several reservations they visit. The complexities, derived from a historical background of government coercion mixed with language barriers, are many. Go Native America guides share their knowledge and experience so the guests can accurately understand the realities of the conditions and interact with their hosts with sensitivity and respect.


The stereotypical idea that all tribes have money-making casinos as the "new buffalo" grossly misrepresents the truth. Most reservations suffer from poverty and the accompanying social ills. In order to share the real Native America with the guests community members are strongly discouraged from changing their regular customs/habits for tour groups. In this way, the visitors are able to experience the communities as they are, and not a version of it prepared for tourists.

Lasting Experiences

Go Native America tour members usually have a grasp of the human and cultural loss suffered by the Indigenous population of the US. The enormity of it, however, usually hits them when they arrive and experience themselves the reality of Native American communities. Many of tour participants' social conscience has led to ongoing support for the communities they visit - through fundraising for existing projects and creating new projects. GNA supports these initiatives by liaising, coordinating and generally overseeing where needed. An example of such initiative started by a tour participant is the provision of a computer by a Yorkshire school for kids on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in order to create an Internet exchange between the two school communities. Go Native America matched the gift so there will be computers for both schools.



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As the world's oldest and largest international ecotourism association, TIES seeks to be the global source of knowledge and advocacy uniting communities, conservation, sustainable travel..




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The Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference will highlight global challenges and local opportunities, supporting sustainable development of tourism and promoting solutions that balance conservation, communities and sustainable travel.

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