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Visit Indigenous Landscapes

Indigenous peoples - including Native Alaskans, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians - first established roots in the New World. Archeology provides a window into their lives long ago. It also helps us to understand change on the continent, including environmental shifts and the impacts of cultures in contact. From the archeological record emerges a rich heritage of human life and culture in the past with links to living groups in the present.

Visit Indigenous Landscapes gets travelers started on places to go and things to do. It includes national parks, state and local parks, as well as National Register and National Historic Landmark properties. During your visit, please keep in mind that these sites may be sacred to living peoples and are part of a unique, irreplaceable heritage.

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Alaska

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, Alaska
People have lived in the Brooks Range for more than 13,000 years. Today Athapaskan and Inupiat descendants and various Non-Native Alaskan peoples call the area home. Thousands of archeological sites in Gates of the Arctic document this history and people's strong connections to the land.

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Qizhjeh Vena, meaning ‘a place where people gathered’ in Dena’ina Athabascan, is the original name of Lake Clark. The Athabascan people known as Dena’ina have lived in the Lake Clark region for thousands of years. Explorers, missionaries, prospectors, trappers, and entrepreneurs began arriving in the 18th century. Today, the park is an area where various ethnicities can explore their collaborative history.

Effigy Mounts National Monument
Effigy Mounds National Monument, NPS photo.

Midwest

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Illinois
Cahokia, a World Heritage Site, was once the largest indigenous urban center in what is now the United States. The site includes the remnants of everyday houses, monumental public works, and structures that aligned with the sun's position on the equinox.

Millstone Bluff, Shawnee National Forest, Illinois
Between 1350 and 1550 CE, Mississippian peoples built semi-subterranean homes at Millstone Bluff and carved rock art, or petroglyphs, into the sandstone. Designs depict figures thought to be important in the religion of the Mississippian culture and to the identity of the peoples living at the site.

Angel Mounds, Indiana
Built between A.D. 1000 and 1450, the ancient town at Angel Mounds was occupied by more than 1,000 people part of the Mississippian culture. They built 11 earthen mounds as platforms to elevate important buildings. The original town covered 103 acres and served as an important religious, political and trade center for people living within a 75-mile radius.

Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa
Effigy Mounds National Monument protects over 200 mounds built by Native peoples. The mounds date between approximately 650-1200 CE and 31 are shaped as bird and bear figures. Archeologists use aerial photography, LIDAR, ground-penetrating radar, and other mapping tools to help understand more about these mounds, including when they were made and why.

Sanilac Petroglyphs, Michigan
Within the 240-acre state park, the Sanilac petroglyphs are the only known rock carvings attributed to Native American workmanship in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The petroglyphs, which are believed to have been carved between 300 to 1,200 years ago, include depictions of swirls, lines, handprints, flying birds and bow men.

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, Ohio
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park contains five major earthworks and other archeological sites. Three of the five earthwork sites are open to the public with interpretive paths and nature trails. The visitor center features exhibits about Hopewell culture, an award-winning video, and many of the artifacts found throughout the park, including exquisite effigy pipes. The park also offers educational programs with cultural and archeological themes.

Newark Earthworks State Memorial, Ohio
The Newark Earthworks comprise the largest set of geometric earthworks in the world. Three segments of the Newark Earthworks are preserved: Great Circle Earthworks, Octagon Earthworks, and Wright Earthworks. The sites may have been used by the Hopewell for ceremonial and social gatherings. Researchers argue that portions of these earthworks may have also been used as astronomical observation points.

Serpent Mound State Memorial, Ohio
The Fort Ancient Culture's serpent effigy mound is possibly the most well-known prehistoric earthwork in the region. The sun sets in alignment with the serpent's head on the summer solstice. Visitors can walk around Serpent Mound and explore the museum to learn about the archeology and geology of the site.

SunWatch Indian Village and Archeological Park, Ohio
SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park is a partially-reconstructed Fort Ancient period American Indian village along the Great Miami River in Dayton, Ohio. The Fort Ancient culture occupied the Middle Ohio River Valley between about A.D. 1000 and A.D. 1650. They were the first intensive farmers of the area and the last prehistoric group to occupy it prior to the arrival of European settlers. Archeological investigations of the site began in the 1960's and continue today.

Coso Rock District
Coso Rock District

Pacific West

Chumash Painted Cave State Historical Park, California
The walls of this small cave carved from towering sandstone boulders contain some of the finest remaining rock art created by Chumash Native Americans dating from 1600 and earlier. California State Parks has teamed with CyArk and Santa Ynez Valley High School to produce a detailed 3D laser scan of Chumash Painted Cave and its surroundings.

Coso Rock Art District, California
The Coso Rock Art District, a National Historic Landmark deep in the U.S. Navy's testing station at China Lake, contains one of America's most impressive petroglyphic and archeological complexes. Over 20,000 images have been recorded.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
The archeological resources at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park cross a range of prehistoric Native Hawaiian and Euro/American historic sites. Five centuries ago, this area was host to thriving family communities, or ohana. Evidence of their life on this lava landscape can be found in the remnants of house platforms, caves, and parvings (petroglyphs) in the cooled lava surface that represented their families, traditions and beliefs.

Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Hawaii
Although Kalaupapa is primarily known for its historic Hansen’s disease settlement, the peninsula and nearby valleys are also extremely rich in archeological resources. Early historical accounts describe the massive quantity of archeological sites spanning the entire width of the peninsula.

Indian Painted Rocks, Little Spokane River Natural Area, Washington
Thought to be around 250 years old, the Indian Painted Rocks are incredibly well preserved pictographs. While the meaning of the Rock Paintings remains unclear, they are a physical reminder of the Spokane people's occupancy and use of the Inland Northwest long before the arrival of non-indigenous people to the area.

Ocmulgee National Monument
Ocmulgee National Monument, NPS photo.

Southeast

Russell Cave National Monument, Alabama
Russell Cave is is one of the oldest rock shelters in the eastern United States. The site provided shelter to various groups for approximately 12,000 years, from roughly 10,000 BC to 1650 CE. Artifacts provide clues to the daily lifeways of early North American peoples, and how ancient technologies such as projectile points and basket-making evolved over time.

Everglades National Park, Florida
The Calusa tribe occupied a large area of the Southwest coast of Florida from the area west of Lake Okeechobee down to Cape Sable. The tribe was organized as a Chiefdom and was composed of many small villages, each containing a chief. Many of these villages were located along the 10,000 islands. This coastal group utilized the resources around them for subsistence. They depended mostly on fishing and some strategic foraging for foodstuffs. See shell mounds, tree islands, and canals.

Miami Circle National Historical Landmark, Florida
In 1998, archeologists discovered what they believed to be the only cut-in-rock prehistoric structural footprint in America at Bricknell Point. It is likely that the structure was created by the Tequesta culture, who occupied the southeastern region of Florida from approximately 500 BCE to 1763 when Spain turned Florida over to Britain. The artifacts recovered from the site include stone and bone tools associated with hunting, weaving, carving, and other everyday tasks. While the circle itself is buried for protection, the site has been turned into a park where visitors can explore and learn more about the area's history.

Ocmulguee National Monument, Georgia
Ocmulgee National Monument has had 17,000 years of continuous human habitation. Native peoples living at the site in the past erected large earthen mounds still visible today. The largest dig ever conducted in America occurred here between 1933 and 1936. Some of the artifacts discovered are on display today in the site's museum.

Poverty Point National Monument, Louisiana
Poverty Point was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014. It contains a massive 72-foot-tall mound, enormous concentric half-circles and related earthworks built by past Native peoples. These earthworks along with recovered domestic tools, human figurines, and stones brought to the site from over 800 miles away indicate that Poverty Point was a residential, trade, and ceremonial center thousands of years ago.

Amistad National Recreation Area
Petroglyphs at Amistad National Recreation Area. NPS photo.

Southwest

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona
Millions of years of land uplifts and stream cutting created the colorful sheer cliff walls of Canyon de Chelly. The Ancient Puebloans found the canyons an ideal place to plant crops and raise families. They built pit houses and homes within the rock alcoves. Hopi and Navajo peoples also occupied the area in later periods.

The Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve, Arizona
The Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve is an archeology museum and 47-acre Sonoran Desert preserve, and home to the largest concentration of Native American petroglyphs in the Phoenix area. Archaic, Hohokam, and Patayan peoples passed through the area and left their mark by pecking over 1,500 symbols into the basalt boulders.

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona
Montezuma Castle National Monument contains dwellings built by the Southern Sinagua archeological culture between A.D. 1100 and A.D. 1425. The ruins are some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the American Southwest.

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
More than 13,000 years of human history and culture are represented at Petrified Forest National Park. From prehistoric peoples to the Civilian Conservation Corps, from early explorers to Route 66 motorists, the park has many stories to tell. Visitors can view both petroglyphs and pueblo sites.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Ancestral Pueblo people lived at Mesa Verde for over 700 years, from 600 to 1300 CE. Today, the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico
Today the massive buildings of the ancestral Pueblo peoples still testify to the organizational and engineering abilities not seen anywhere else in the American Southwest. By 1050 CE, Chaco had become the ceremonial, administrative, and economic center of the San Juan Basin. It contained great houses, sophisticated astronomical markers, communication features, water control devices, and formal earthen mounds, many of which still survive today.

Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico
Petroglyph National Monument protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago. These images are a valuable record of cultural expression and hold profound spiritual significance for contemporary Native Americans and for the descendants of the early Spanish settlers.

Grimes Point-Hidden Cave Site, Nevada
Visitors to Grimes Point can view examples of petroglyphs along a 1/4 mile, self-guided interpretive trail as well as visit the Hidden Cave site. Archeological investigations at the cave indicate that ancient peoples used the sites as a cache, or storage, area between 3,500 and 3,800 years ago.

Grimes Point-Hidden Cave Site, Nevada
Visitors to Grimes Point can view examples of petroglyphs along a 1/4 mile, self-guided interpretive trail as well as visit the Hidden Cave site. Archeological investigations at the cave indicate that ancient peoples used the sites as a cache, or storage, area between 3,500 and 3,800 years ago.

Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area, Nevada
Ancient peoples used this site around 10,000 years ago. The petroglyphs they carved into the rock faces may relate to their ritual or hunting activities. Hickison Summit has been developed by the Bureau of Land Management for public enjoyment, with a scenic interpretive trail and camping and picnic facilities.

Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
World-renowned for its 40,000 acres of bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in gray and tan limestone, Valley of Fire State Park contains ancient petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years. A Visitor Center provides exhibits on the geology, ecology, prehistory and history of the park and nearby region.

Amistad National Recreation Area, Texas
The Lower Pecos River Archeological region contains more than 2,000 archeological sites that span from the 19th century to over 10,000 years ago. Over 325 of these sites contain pictographs ranging from a few inches tall to panels stretching more than 100 feet. Seminole Canyon, Parida Cave, Panther Cave, and White Shaman Preserve are featured here. Visitors can go on both self-guided and led tours of these incredible sites.

Hueco Tanks State Historic Site, Texas
Throughout the last 10,000 years, Hueco Tanks has provided water, food and shelter to travelers in the Chihuahuan Desert. Around A.D. 1150, Jornada Mogollon people began farming at the base of the rock hills. Archeological remains of their lives include pottery sherds, stone tools, and remnants of pithouses and water control features. These people and others also left clues to their stories in the pictographs and petroglyphs carved into rock features around the site.

Lower Pecos Rock Art, Texas
The rock art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands dates to at least 4,500 years ago. Multiple archeological studies have been done to preserve and interpret these images.

Seminole Canyon, Texas
Seminole Canyon contains many eras of history, spanning from 12,000 years ago to the 19th century. Extensive pictographs of the Lower Pecos River Style, attributed to the Middle Archaic period of 4,000 years ago, adorn rock-shelters throughout the canyons.These and pictographs from other periods give park visitors a visual link to the canyon dwellers of the past.

Arches National Park, Utah
The rock art of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands dates to at least 4,500 years ago. Multiple archeological studies have been done to preserve and interpret these images.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
The archeology of Horseshoe Canyon spans thousands of years of human history. Artifacts recovered from sites in this area date back as early as 9000-7000 BCE (Before Common Era), when Paleoindians hunted large mammals like mastodons and mammoths across the southwest. The Great Gallery, the site's best known rock art panel, includes well-preserved, life-sized figures with intricate designs.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Fremont and Ancestral Pueblo people lived in this area between approximately 300 and 1300 CE (Common Era). Pictographs (painted on rock surfaces) and petroglyphs (carved or pecked into the rock surface) throughout the park depict their art and stories. Their pithouses, rock shelters, unique basketry style, pottery, and other artifacts have helped archeologists understand more about their lives.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah
The Ancestral Puebloan culture dominated much of the southwest in the 12th and 13th centuries. Glen Canyon was probably on the outskirts of their settlement area. No large communities were built in this area, but a few small cliff dwellings and other archeological sites have been found. Defiance House, built between 1250 and 1285 CE, is one of the best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan dwellings in the area. The site was named for the pictographs painted on its walls that display men brandishing clubs and shields.

Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
Hunter-gatherer groups first began using this area during the Archaic period, from the year 7000 BCE (Before Common Era) to 500 CE (Common Era). Around 700 CE, ancestors of modern Puebloan people moved onto the mesa tops. Rock art, stone tools, masonry structures, ceramics, and other artifacts all tell their stories.

Parowan Gap, Dixie National Forest, Utah
Parowan Gap contains over 90 rock panels showcasing over 1,500 carvings. Some glyphs are possibly almost 5,000 years old, yet archeologists believe Fremont people carved the majority of them between 700 and 1,500 years ago. To the modern-day Paiute and Hopi Tribes, Parowan Gap remains an important historical, cultural, and spiritual site.

Legend Rock State Historic Site, Wyoming
Legend Rock has been a sacred site for Native Americans of this region for thousands of years. The site contains a 400 meters long (1,312 feet) near-vertical cliff with more than 92 prehistoric petroglyph panels and over 300 petroglyph figures.

Last updated: October 25, 2018