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Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

California is home to 109 federally recognized Native American tribes. Their rich history, unique culture and diverse traditions are waiting for travelers to discover throughout the state. From north to south, towns throughout California are celebrating the diversity of Native Americans throughout November's Native American Heritage Month.

Historic Towns

Santa Clara County
In Morgan Hill, Kathy Chavez Napoli is single-handedly helping preserve and protect the culture of the Amah Mutsun tribe. As a member of the federally recognized Susanville Indian Rancheria, Kathy works to educate children about the Tribe's culture and history and was instrumental in creating the Native American Garden, stocked with plants that the Tribe uses for cooking, basket weaving and medicinal purposes.

Over 3,000 years before European settlers arrived in Gilroy, the area was home to the Amah Mutsun (also known as Ohlone) people. Today, visitors can stroll through Chitactac-Adams Heritage County Park, discovering a wealth of cultural artifacts, including bedrock mortars and petroglyphs. A short self-guided walk and an interpretive shelter focusing on tribal culture and history give travelers a glimpse into the life of the Tribe. The Gilroy History Museum also features more artifacts on display. 

North Lake Tahoe
The Washoe are the original inhabitants of Da ow aga (Lake Tahoe) and all the lands surrounding it. In fact, Tahoe is a mispronunciation of "Da ow," meaning "lake." The Washoe believe land, language and people are intrinsically intertwined. To understand the Washoe is to appreciate and respect the natural environment and beauty of North Lake Tahoe

Central Coast
Travelers to the Santa Maria Valley can dive into the culture of the Chumash people who have lived in the Central Valley for thousands of years. The trade and travel routes used by the Tribe were developed with the Yokut people along the Santa Maria and Cuyama rivers, which can be seen at La Purisima Mission Historic State Park.

Temecula Valley
Temecula Valley is home to Pechanga Resort Casino, one of the country's largest resort casinos. Operated by the Pechanga Band of Indians, the four-diamond property is over-the-top on many levels, from its two-level, 25,000 square feet spa to The Cove, a swimming complex the size of five football fields. Since its opening in 2002, Pechanga Resort Casino has donated millions of dollars to the community and encourages its team members to volunteer with organizations that improve the lives of tribal members and the greater Temecula community. 

Los Angeles Area
The Tongva Indians, also known as Gabrielino or San Gabriel Band of Mission Indians, are native to the LA area, having settled from the base of Mount Wilson to San Bernardino, Topanga Canyon and Laguna Beach. In Torrance, visit the Madrona Marsh Preserve and Nature Center to learn how the Tribe used the marshland. In Santa Monica, visitors can stroll through the over six-acre Santa Monica's Tongva Park, which honors the Native American Tongva nation.

Tuolumne County
In Tuolumne County, travelers are treated to two tribal cultures in one county. The area is home to the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians and the Chicken Ranch Rancheria Me-Wuk Indians. The Me-Wuk Indian tribe showcases its history at its Black Oak Casino Resort. Next spring, the Chicken Rancheria Me-Wuk will open the all-new Chicken Ranch Casino Resort, with nearly 200 rooms, multiple restaurants and live entertainment all on-site.

Suisun Valley
The history of Suisun Valley is interlinked with that of the Patwin tribe of the Wintun people. Today, visitors can delve into Solano County's Native American roots while enjoying one of the state's fastest-growing wine regions known for friendly, family-run wineries growing over 20 varietals. 

Native American Museums and Exhibits

North Coast
As one of only 14 designated California Cultural Districts, Eureka strongly focuses on the arts. Recently, renowned Northern California Native American artist Carl Avery created a gateway to the city of Eureka with the mural "Elements of the Lost Coast" on an overpass over Highway 101 to welcome drivers into the city. Throughout Eureka, visitors will find Native Art on public display and in galleries. At the zoo, the oldest in California, a just-opened bear and coyote exhibit was underwritten by the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria. A unique feature of the habitat includes a traditional native plank house at the entrance, which includes the Tribe's emblem on the face of the structure. It is the only one of its kind at an Association of Zoos & Aquariums accredited institution.

San Francisco
For thousands of years, the iconic Presidio was home to the Ramaytush Ohlone tribe. The Presidio Trust honors and celebrates their culture with its "Park as Platform" program. In 2023, the focus was on intertribal dance gatherings and an art installation by Felicia Gabaldon, a Native American of the Choctaw Tribe with Spanish Heritage. Visitors can view the installation at the Presidio Tunnel Tops. 

Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa is home to two museums where visitors can learn about the rich history of the area's Native American people. The California Indian Museum and Cultural Center features exhibits, workshops, and educational programs that explore the history, art and traditions of Native American communities. The Santa Rosa Junior College Multicultural Museum showcases art, artifacts and historical items, and collaborates with local indigenous organizations to promote multiculturalism and inclusivity. 

Santa Barbara
Travelers to Santa Barbara can learn about the area's Chumash tribe at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, which features an exhibit detailing how the Chumash used a tomol plank canoe to navigate the 27-mile Santa Barbara Channel. At the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, an ongoing exhibit on Chumash life and the Sukinanik'oy Garden of Chumash Plants helps visitors better understand Santa Barbara's native roots. 

Visitors to San Luis Obispo County can immerse in the history and culture of the Northern Chumash people who occupied the area thousands of years ago. The Morro Bay Museum of Natural History celebrates Native American life with exhibits implementing the language of the Northern Chumash tribe. It also houses the Chumash Garden, which details how the Chumash used native plants in their daily lives. At Sandspit Beach in Montana de Oro State Park, travelers will find a display on the history of the beach and its benefits for the Chumash. The Fiscalini Preserve in Cambria was inhabited by the Chumash and today is a great place for a walk to enjoy the coastline. 

Orange County
Buena Park's famous Knott's Berry Farm features many exhibits that offer a glimpse into the life, culture and history of the area's Native American tribes. Visitors can view a replica adobe home, tepee, wigwam, and a long house to get a sense of how Native Americans lived. There are also several totem poles throughout the area that are a symbol of the visual storytelling that is central to the culture. Guests can attend a Native American dance presentation that uses movement to share the Native American experience.

San Diego County
At San Diego County's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – the largest state park in the contiguous United States, visitors can delve into the area's Native American history. Interpretative trails help visitors explore ancient Cahuilla and Kumeyaay village sites, as well as hunting trails and rock art. A museum in the park houses artifacts from numerous area indigenous tribes. 

San Diego Botanic Gardens
Located in Encinitas, the San Diego Botanic Garden is a 37-acre oasis featuring four miles of meandering trails and ocean views, 5,300 plant species and varieties, and 29 uniquely themed gardens. One of those themed gardens is the Native Plants & Native People, created in partnership with the Kumeyaay, the earliest inhabitants of the area. The garden features a traditional homesite, native plants and a trail that weaves guests through some of the rarest habitats in the country: the coastal sage scrub and southern maritime chaparral of Southern California.

Junipero Serra Museum
San Diego's Junipero Serra Museum gives visitors a glimpse into the stories of the native people who lived along the edge of the river. The exhibit showcases how native tribes interacted with European settlers in the Presidio.

Oceanside Art
Oceanside's free annual Valley Arts Festival celebrates its first people, the Luiseño nation. Slated for Nov. 4, 2023, the festival supports and celebrates this indigenous population while educating the community on the beauty and strength of the Luiseno culture. The family-friendly event showcases Native American music, culinary and artistic traditions through educational and interactive activities, including basket weaving, storytelling and gourd painting.