- Associated Press - Friday, May 6, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - American Indian tribes in North Dakota plan to band together and seek state funding to promote tourism on reservations.

Tribes want visitors to North Dakota to experience the whole state, including Native American culture, Turtle Mountain Tourism Association Vice Chairman Les Thomas told the Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/1T4JHQG ).

Tribal leaders will meet with state and federal officials at the two-day North Dakota Native Tourism Summit in Bismarck, with the goal of forming a tribal tourism association, which would be an affiliate of the national American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association. They also intend to begin developing a plan to pursue a larger tourism industry on reservations.

Bureau of Indian Affairs tourism specialist Ed Hall said the opportunity for tribes is “tremendous.” He said tribal businesses would benefit from visitor spending because the influx of dollars would make them more sustainable and boost tribal economies.

Tribal leaders believe the entire state would benefit from strengthening tourism on tribal lands.

“Tribes not isolated they’re an asset,” Hall said. “Tribes open other doors beyond the usual (tourism) markets.”

About 1.7 million international tourists visit American Indian tribes each year, according to presenters from George Washington University.

“It’s a win, win, win situation for the entire state,” Thomas said.

The statewide tribal association would rely on partnerships, with tribes working with state government for marketing, other towns for creating a larger tourism package and colleges for workforce. Some of the ideas include establishing a Native American history kiosk at the Bismarck Airport and holding tribal ceremonies at On a Slant Village.

“You’re landing in Indian country; you want to feel that,” Davis said.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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