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Tribal tourism grants aim to help businesses hurt during the pandemic

By: - September 29, 2022 4:22 pm

Havasu Falls, one of five Havasupai waterfalls deep in Arizona’s Havasu Canyon, an offshoot of Grand Canyon National Park but on lands administered by the Havasupai Indian Tribe. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith | Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Tribal nations looking to improve or develop tribal tourism businesses within their communities have a chance to get some support through the Tribal Tourism Grant Program.

The grant is funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Indian Economic Development Program, and it supports the development of new tribal tourism businesses as well as helping existing tourism businesses recover from the pandemic.

“Tourism is a vital part of many Tribal economies, providing jobs and bringing resources to Tribal communities,” Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland said in a press release.

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The Tribal Tourism Grant Program strives to help tribal economic development and fulfill the mission of the NATIVE Act. The program works toward this goal by supplying funding for tribes to complete feasibility studies that will help them with possible tourism projects.  

The NATIVE Act was signed into law in 2016 in order “to enhance and integrate Native American tourism, empower Native American communities, increase coordination and collaboration between Federal tourism assets, and expand heritage and cultural tourism opportunities in the United States.”

“The Tribal Tourism Grant Program is one way we are investing in Indian Country to promote economic opportunities in and near Tribal communities to make sure that people have the opportunity to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives in their Tribal communities,” Newland said.

The Tribal Tourism Grant Program also supplies funding for tribal nations to develop a business plan for tourism feasibility studies that are already completed. Tribal tourism businesses that are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for the grant, and the program may fund their business plans.

The Office of the Indian Economic Development is looking to award between 20 and 35 grants through the Tribal Tourism Grant Program. In 2021, the program awarded 18 grants.

The grants range in value from $25,000 to $150,000, and are intended to allow tribes and tribal organizations to hire consultants, perform feasibility studies and develop business plans of proposed tourism projects.

Tribes and tribal organizations can only submit one application, and each application will go through a competitive evaluation process. 

The Office of the Indian Economic Development review committee will evaluate the grant applications against five criterias: The Project’s Economic Benefits; Project Deliverables; Feasibility Process and Analysis; Costs of Proposal; and Specificity.

Applications for the grant will be accepted until Oct. 24, and for more information about the Tribal Tourism Grant Program visit the Office of Indian Economic Development website.

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Shondiin Silversmith
Shondiin Silversmith

Shondiin Silversmith is an award-winning Native journalist based on the Navajo Nation. Silversmith has covered Indigenous communities for more than 10 years, and covers Arizona's 22 federally recognized sovereign tribal nations, as well as national and international Indigenous issues. Her digital, print and audio stories have been published by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic, Navajo Times, The GroundTruth Project and PRX's "The World." Silversmith earned her master's degree in journalism and mass communication in Boston before moving back to Arizona to continue reporting stories on Indigenous communities. She is a member of the Native American Journalist Association and has made it a priority in her career to advocate, pitch and develop stories surrounding Indigenous communities in the newsrooms she works in.

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