Representatives from the state’s eleven tribes are wrapping up a conference on Native American tourism. Many are looking to tourism to provide an economic boost.
The Sokoagon Chippewa Community hosted the annual Native American Tourism of Wisconsin, or NATOW, conference this week. Tribes from around the state gathered in Mole Lake to talk about fresh ways to market themselves and draw visitors.
NATOW’S Executive Director Ernie Stevens III says tourism can go beyond gaming to create economic value for the tribes.
“We focus on the cultural side, you know the historical side," he explained. "The elements that people, I think, don’t get enough of and see enough of, hear enough of - even taste enough of, because there’s also Native cuisine that we want to get out into the world. So there’s all these things, these hidden gems that people have yet to experience.”
Stevens says NATOW is looking at new ways of raising awareness and sharing cultural stories, including plans for an online tv program.
He also says each tribe will be unique in determining if and how they want to draw tourists.
Chippewa Federation spokesperson Brandon Thoms says some tribes are looking beyond casinos to draw visitors.
“Obviously entertainment and gaming is the main economic driver for most of our communities," Thoms said. "But more importantly, I think there are opportunities for tourism because of our natural beauty and landscape - the fishing and recreational sport opportunities we have are incredible.”
Thoms says the tribes can also create marketing strategies to share gaming customers rather than compete for them.