Story by: Marilyn Angel Wynn
Located in the misty cedar forest of the Northwest Coast is the home of the Tulalip tribe in Washington State. This year this unique community of Coast Salish people hosted the annual American Indian & Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) conference at the outstanding Tulalip Casino resort hotel and convention center.
Since I've become the leading tourist to Indian Country destinations for the past 16 years, I just had to attend this conference for a second time. My company, Native Stock Pictures, happily volunteered me to photograph this years entire 4-day event. It was like coming home as I remembered many of the faces of the Tulalip tribal members who I met during the Spirit Canoe Journey this past summer.
Most of the 450 attendees commented on the spectacular rooms and awesome showers. I camped out in my RV and missed this amenity. However, as one speaker described the showers "since the water sprayed from the wall I felt like a salmon swimming through the current of a strong stream or ocean current. The attendees spent their days networking, taking workshops and consulting with top representatives from the government offices of Secretary of State, Federal Parks, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Small Business Association. While spending their evenings networking in the lobby, taking in a buffet dinner and later singing and dancing at kareoke. This group of business people know how to let loose and have fun.
Over 450 attendees were there for the 4 day conference. There were artisan and vendor booths, who specialize in Indian Country travel, set up throughout the hotel's convention area. An internet cafe zone was there for individuals who needed to stay in contact with associates, clients and family. Throughout the halls and sitting areas, there were small groups of attendees networking with tourism specialists.
One thing for sure is that Native people know how to feast on good food and laugh at all the jokes flying around. Vendors, related to the tourism industry, were there to offer their specialized services, about 12 Native artists set up booths to sell their arts and crafts and four workshops ran simultaneously throughout each day.
The highlights for me at this year's AIANTA conference were meeting up with Ron Chapman Secretary of State Office, Patti representing the Tulalip tribe, Yada Yada of the Nevada Indian Organization, Ron Solomon Pueblo Cultural Center Board member, Walter Lamar of Lamar and Associates, and Dr James of the Southern Ute Tribe.
AIANTA members also had to elect a new Board Member at Large and regional directors. I'm happy to
announce that Ron Solomon, from the Laguna Pueblo tribe, was honored as the chair recipient. He's charismatic, a true leader, a listener and has a huge list of strong credentials listed on his resume to support his new position. He's just an all round wonderful guy who's going to take AIANTA to a whole new level. It's only going to get better with membership growth and new energy to help tribes bring tourism to their communities. Way to go Ron! Can't wait for the 2011 conference that will be hosted by the Yavapai Apache tribe and held in Fountain Hills AZ