At Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (00 1 403 553 2731; www.head-smashed-in ) in south-west Alberta, trails, the remains of a camp and a huge pile of buffalo bones are evidence of a custom practised by aboriginal peoples for nearly 6,000 years. Near Peterborough are the Serpent Mounds Provincial Park (00 1 705 295 6879; www.serpentmoundspark ), a burial site now owned by the Hiawatha, and Petroglyphs Provincial Park (00 1 705 877 2552; www.ontarioparks ; closed until 5 May 2006), which boasts Canada's largest concentration of rock carvings Heading further west, animal lovers should look away now. Canada has Native American sites scattered right across the country. Here you can set up a tepee, dine on buffalo stew, fried or baked bannock (bread), muskeg tea and Saskatoon berry tart, and learn about those who gathered at this site for more than 6,000 years. In Nova Scotia, for thousands of years the Mi'kmaq and their ancestors canoed along the connected waterways of Kejimkujik National Park (00 1 902 682 2772; www.pc.gc.ca).Further west, near St Thomas, Ontario, you can visit the Southwold Earthworks National Historic Site (00 1 519 322 2365; www.pc.gc.ca), the remains of a village inhabited around 1500AD by the Attiwondaronk Nation. In New Mexico, the Hyatt Regency Tamaya (00 1 505 867 1234; www.tamaya.hyatt ) is owned by Pueblo Indians and The Inn of the Mountain Gods (00 1 800 545 9011; www.innofthemountaingods ) by Mescalero Apache.CAN I SLEEP IN A TEPEE? Go north of the border. Regina in Saskatchewan may be home to the Mounties, but in the same province you will find the Wanuskewin Heritage Park (00 1 306 931 6767; www.wanuskewin ), devoted to the Northern Plains peoples.
More than a third of the 500-member staff was hired from the Indian community. Some are assuming new roles as luxury hoteliers and partnering with hotel chains to offer guests an introduction to Indian culture. The Pima and Maricopa (traditionally, the former are basket-weavers, the latter, potters) built the $175m (£100m) Sheraton Wild Horse Pass (00 1 602 225 0100; www.wildhorsepassresort ) outside Phoenix, Arizona. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed by congress in 1988, and the National Indian Gaming Association has about 180 member tribes operating casinos in more than 20 US states. Indian gaming is now worth more than US$7.5bn (£4.2bn) annually.The success of the casinos has allowed tribes to branch out into other ventures.
In most parts of the US and Canada, opportunities for gambling are heavily restricted, so many tribes opened casinos on their land. In the US, by far the largest tribal grouping is the Cherokee, followed by the Navajo. Other tribes in the top 10 include Choctaw, Sioux, Apache, Iroquois and Pueblo. Of the US native population, 43 per cent live in the west, 31 per cent in the * * south, 17 per cent in the Midwest and nine per cent in the north-east. Another result of the political struggle of a few decades ago is the one thing that has brought economic well-being to them: casinos.WHY CASINOS? Because many Native nations won sovereignty over their land, enabling them to do things not permitted elsewhere within the state. Within the group known as "First Nations" or "Indians", there are 633 First Nations bands, representing 52 nations or cultural groups and more than 50 languages.