Photographer: Stephen Walker
Tour Indigenous Historic Sites by Electric Vehicle
By Emie-Claude Lamoureux
A diverse number of Indigenous historical sites have been well preserved throughout North America. Each sacred site has safeguarded its rich culture and history through various efforts which include outdoor treks, museums, live exhibitions, educational cultural activities and more.
Amid their cultural diversity, one value unites them from one corner of the continent to the other: that of living in harmony with and listening to Mother Nature. And so, no matter the reason you chose to become an electric vehicle (EV) driver—economic, environmental or technological—, the ability to tour Indigenous historic sites in a zero-emission vehicle does contribute to environmentally-friendly tourism.
While you can’t visit them all at once in a row (each site has its own opening schedule through the year), you can certainly consider and plan your tour to the following must-see sites in North America. We leave it up to you to tour Indigenous historic sites by electric vehicle to discover their legends and stories of a not so distant past.
Heard Museum is located in Phoenix, Arizona and dedicated to the preservation of the culture and heritage of Indigenous peoples of the Southwestern United States. Since its founding in 1929, the museum has grown in size and stature, now recognized internationally for the quality of its collections, world-class exhibitions, educational programs and unparalleled festivals.
Today its collection consists of approximately 44,000 objects, including Navajo textiles, Zuni jewelry and contemporary Indigenous art. Among the most interesting exhibits is that of the 430 Hopi Indian Kachina dolls, purchased from former US Senator Barry Goldwater. Dozens of videos throughout the museum provide a deeper understanding of specific cultures, art forms and artists. Visitors of all ages can try hands-on activities that range from weaving with beads on an oversized loom and creating wearable art to forming their own butterflies, Apache charging baskets and Yaqui paper flowers.
EV charging near Heard Museum
Spirit Bear Lodge
British Columbia, Canada
Set sail for Klemtu in British Columbia, home to the Kitasoo people and the Xai’xais, two separate tribal nations who are gathered here. In this sacred place, visitors respect nature and can take photos, leaving only footsteps behind. For centuries, the ancestors of these ancient Indigenous tribes never ceded their tribal territories or jurisdiction by conquest or treaty to the British or their colonial governments. They sustainably managed their resources, providing for everyone’s needs and ensuring that the richness of forests, fish and wildlife would be there for future generations.
Accordingly, when visiting the Spirit Bear Lodge, you are not only supporting an environmentally responsible Indigenous business that contributes to regional conservation efforts, but also the conservation of the Great Bear Forest and community governance efforts.
EV charging near Spirit Bear Lodge
Getting there is part of the adventure! You can take the ferry from Prince Rupert or from Moresby Island where there is a level 2 charging station of the Tesla network.
Cherokee Heritage Center
Oklahoma is at a unique intersection, not only because the State is located literally in the middle of the United States, but also because it’s home to the capital of the Cherokee Nation. At the Cherokee Heritage Center (CHC), we find the collective stories of three federally recognized Cherokee tribes which include: the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the largest tribe in the United States; the Cherokee Nation.
The CHC is the first site ever to be dedicated to preserving the Cherokee Nation’s art, culture and history. Each tour can be personalized to include interactive stories or hands-on activities such as basketry, pottery and more. On-site, visitors are encouraged to visit the Diligwa Village for an immersive experience that depicts a Cherokee village from 1710. It’s an authentic exhibit that encourages guests to learn about craftsmanship through demonstrations, and have a better understanding of what life was like during the 18th century with storytelling. What’s more, the CHC is located on the grounds of the Cherokee Female Seminary, which was one of the first institutions of higher education for women west of the Mississippi and is registered in the National Register of Historic Places.
EV charging near Cherokee Heritage Center (CHC)
Tahlequah city, where the Cherokee Center is located, offers level 2 public charging stations accessible 24 hours. Nearby, you have the opportunity to visit other sites operated by the Cherokee Nation which are within a five-to-ten-minute drive of the CHC. To learn more about these sites, visit the tourism website of the Cherokee Nation.
The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center (SLCC)
British Columbia, Canada
When visiting British Columbia, head to Whistler where you’ll find the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center (SLCC) which embodies the spirit of a unique partnership between two distinct nations: the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations. Both work in unison to preserve, develop and share their traditional cultures. Designed to evoke the shape of a Squamish longhouse and Lil’wat Istken (earthen dwelling), the SLCC features a large hall that captures sunlight and reveals spectacular views of the mountains and forest through walls of 220-foot curved glass planks.
In the Coast Salish culture of the Squamish people and the Interior Salish culture of the Lil’wat people, canoe carving was almost a lost art. Sesiyam Ray Natraoro, Squamish Nation Master Carver, spent years researching historical documents and seeking advice from the elders to revive this unique style of Squamish canoe carving. Working with apprentices, Sesiyam carved this 40-foot long hunting canoe from one single cedar tree. Named the Xaays Canoe, it is almost twice the height of the Great Hall ceiling.
EV charging near Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Center
The SLCC is located in the Upper Village and across from the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. It is a short walk from the center of Whistler Village where you can plug your electric car into any of the Tesla network Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations. Note also that along Route 99, the famous “Sea to Sky Highway” between Vancouver and Whistler, you will find interpretive panels that will tell you more about these Indigenous people, all the while providing EV charging stations!
Crazy Horse Memorial
South Dakota, USA
Let’s head to South Dakota now, where you can walk through the Black Hills National Forest to the entrance to the Crazy Horse Memorial, a monument that honours the legendary Crazy Horse chef. A famous warrior in the 19th century, he fought in the Battle of Little Bighorn and several other major battles of the Indian Wars. The exact details of Crazy Horse’s personal life are shrouded in mystery, but he is still remembered as one of the most important Native American figures of his time. His memorial, like his heritage, is larger than nature – and is still under construction after 70 years.
The construction of this grandiose monument began in 1948 and when completed will feature Crazy Horse on horseback pointing to the lands of its people. It comes as no surprise to anyone that this is the largest sculpture in the world and is sometimes referred to as the eighth wonder of the world. When you look at it from the gazebo, you’ll get a feel for the impressive scale and size.
EV charging near Crazy Horse Memorial
Tours are available from spring to fall. Want to see how this historic sculpture is made by electric vehicle? Level 2 and 3 charging stations are located to the north and south of this Indigenous historical site. A level 3 charging station of the Tesla network is located near Mount Rushmore, a historic landmark in the United States to be visited in tandem.
Museum of Anthropology at UBC
British Columbia, Canada
In Vancouver, the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology (MOA) is home to one of the world’s finest collections of First Nations totem poles, sculptures and artifacts. The MOA is built on the traditional, ancestral and unceded land of the Musqueam people. It is only fitting that the first works of art and the first words you encounter outside the Museum are from the generous hosts of the First Nations.
The MOA is unique not only because of its physical environment, but because it has created exceptionally close relationships with cultural communities in British Columbia and around the world through experimental and collaborative research methods and exhibitions.
EV charging near MOA
The museum is housed in an award-winning glass and concrete building designed by internationally renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, inspired by the traditional post and beam frames of the Northwest Coast. Located directly on the University of British Columbia campus in the city of Vancouver, there are several level 2 and 3 charging stations.
In southern Alberta, a landscape illustrates the remarkable hunting practices of the Blackfoot warriors, which date back to the late 19th century and are still part of their traditional knowledge base. Today, the Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump is also a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site. Notorious for being fiercely independent and prosperous, the Blackfoot controlled a vast area stretching from the North Saskatchewan River in Alberta to the Yellowstone Montana River, and from the Rocky Mountains to the Cypress Hills on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.
For nearly 6,000 years, countless Blackfoot tribes tracked bison using the Head-Smashed-In-Jump, making it one of the oldest and best-preserved collective hunting sites in North America. At the Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo-Jump, Blackfoot guides will tell you about life on the plains and show you how tribes work together to use every part of the animal. During the summer months, attend—and take part in—performances by native dancers and percussionists, or hike through the corridors that led the bison to their doom.
EV charging near Head-Smashed-In-Jump
Wanuskewin Heritage Park
For more than 6,000 years, the Northern Plains First Nations gathered where Wanuskewin Heritage Park now stands. The word Wanuskewin means ‘place of gathering’ and reflects the nature of this Indigenous historical site: nomadic tribes that roamed the northern plains gathered there to hunt buffalo, gather food and herbs, and escape to winter winds. Yet, Wanuskewin Heritage Park remains largely shrouded in mystery. Some archaeological dig sites indicate life dating back thousands of years, making them older than the Egyptian pyramids and provide clues to the daily life of these First Nations.
Today, the park allows for educational trails that crisscross the valley, as well as visiting archaeological sites dotted with tipi rings, cairns, fragments of pottery, animal bones and other witnesses of the past. Spend the night in a tipi and listen to traditional stories around a campfire while feasting on tea and fresh bannock. As you walk in their footsteps, you will understand why this site was a place of worship and celebration, of reconnection with the natural world and of deep spirituality.
EV charging near Wanuskewin Heritage Park
Manito Ahbee Festival
Each year, the sacred site of Manito Ahbee, located in the western Whiteshell region of Manitoba, is honored by Indigenous people across North America. During the month of May, the Manito Ahbee Festival transforms relationships by sharing Indigenous culture and heritage with the world.
What does Manito Ahbee mean? It is an Ojibway word meaning “where the Creator is.” The name of the province of Manitoba itself derives from this sacred name. True to its name, the festival celebrates Indigenous arts, culture and music to unify, educate and inspire. It features the Indigenous Music Awards, Manito Ahbee Pow Wow, Indigenous Music Conference, Indigenous Market & Trade Show, Getting Jiggy With It, Art Challenge and Youth Education Day!
EV charging near Manito Ahbee
The Huron Traditional Site
Just 15 minutes away from Quebec City, the Huron Traditional Site awaits you. In the heart of Wendake, in the Huron-Wendat reservation, this authentic reconstruction of a Huron village immerses you in the aboriginal history of the province. Interpretation, entertainment, legends, traditional dances and songs are on the program, as well as the possibility of tasting traditional Huron cuisine and participating in various complementary activities (making crafts, shamanic quest, forest walk, canoeing and more).
The guided tour includes a visit to the longhouse, the traditional dwelling of the Hurons, a presentation on the Huron way of life, a visit to the smokehouse and the meat dryer, a presentation on the purification techniques used by their ancestors and initiation into the spiritual life of the Huron people and much more. The duration of a stay here is usually around two hours, including a 45-minute guided tour as well as some free time to allow you to return to the site to take photos and visit the craft store. Then, the NEK8ARRE restaurant on site serves traditional meals; a great way to end the day!