GM 16-060

Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience Act Signed into Law

On September 23, 2016, President Obama signed into law S 1579, the Native American Tourism and Improving Visitor Experience Act (NATIVE Act) as PL 114-221. The NATIVE Act is designed to facilitate international and domestic tourism in tribal communities via updating federal agency tourism strategies and providing increased resources and technical assistance to tribes, tribal organizations, and Native Hawaiian organizations for their tourism efforts. The focus of the NATIVE Act is the utilization tribal communities’ rich and diverse cultures and histories in the visitor experience.

This legislation received bipartisan support and was sponsored by Senator Schatz (D-HI) and Representative Mullin (R-OK). Supporting organizations included the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the Alaska Federation of Natives, and various tourism organizations.

Under the NATIVE Act, those federal agencies which have management plans and tourism strategies are instructed to consult with tribes regarding updating agency plans to include Indian tribes, tribal organizations, and Native Hawaiian organizations. The Act specifically lists the Departments of Commerce and Interior as among these agencies. The updated plans are to outline policy proposals on ways to increase and enhance tourism through improved: tourism data and analysis; agency websites and publications; visitor portals that feature Native heritage and language; accessible transportation; trade opportunities; and identification of agency programs to support tourism capacity-building.

The Secretary of Interior, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, is instructed to enter into a memorandum of understanding or cooperative agreement “with an entity or organization with a demonstrated record in tribal communities of defining, introducing, developing, and sustaining American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian tourism and related activities in a manner that respects and honors native traditions and values.” This organization is to facilitate efforts between the Departments of Commerce and Interior and to work with tribes on identifying technical assistance needs and delivery of that assistance.

The Act also instructs other federal agencies take actions to showcase Native traditions and history, to support tribal efforts to promote visitation, and to establish public-private partnerships geared to travelers, both domestic and international, who are arriving at airports and ports of entry. The Administration for Native Americans, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities are encouraged to provide grants to support tribes’ development of visitor programs and in using the arts and humanities to celebrate their diversity.

The Smithsonian Institution is instructed to collaborate with tribes and other organizations to develop partnerships with non-Smithsonian museums and organizations to share their collections and to undertake joint research and other projects that would support tribal tourism efforts.

The text of the NATIVE Act may be found here:

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