Promoting tribal tourism

Photo courtesy AOT
These are models who participated in the fashion show last weekend at the Independence Day gathering on the San Carlos Reservation.

Photo courtesy AOT These are models who participated in the fashion show last weekend at the Independence Day gathering on the San Carlos Reservation.

PHOENIX -- Dawn Melvin is working closely with Arizona's tribes to improve tourism on Arizona's Indian reservations.

Melvin, Native American tourism development manager with the Arizona Office of Tourism, has spent the past year working with Arizona's tribes taking an inventory of what's going on in Indian land and how the tribes' want to bolster tourism on their respective reservations.

Melvin, who is Navajo and Hopi, said her task is to enhance tourism and help it grow. She also wants to make sure that Native American tourism is included in the overall state tourism plan.

"We can highlight tribal tourism easier if we work hand in hand with the tribes and move at the pace that tribes want to move," she said.

Melvin, who was born and raised in Ft. Defiance, said non-Indians often move at a fast pace while tribes move when they are ready to move.

"It's important to understand that," she said.

Last weekend, Melvin attended the Independence Day gathering on the San Carlos Reservation and the Pai Gathering at the Yavapai-Camp Verde Reservation.

Melvin's tasks include promoting reservation events during the first two years of new events. The Arizona Office of Tourism prints various calendars of events that include Native American events.

Melvin's office also has various grant programs to help encourage strategic planning and advertising for tribal tourism.

Melvin's office jointly promotes tourism for the Navajo and Hopi reservations.

"Hopi and Navajo are very different," she said.

Melvin noted that the Hopi Tribe recently applied for a team grant to work on tourism along with the Navajo Nation.

"The culture and art are very different so it's a really good experience," she said.

Melvin said the state has a Tribal Advisory Committee on Tourism with each tribe having a representative.

Belma Nevakuku represents the Hopi Tribe and Leslie Kedelty represents the Navajo Tribe on the tourism commission.

Melvin's office has been working with the Navajo Nation Shopping Center, which produces a brochure letting tourists know what to see on the Navajo Reservation.

Melvin said her office will soon be publishing a directory of information on Arizona Tribal Tourism. While there will be limited printouts of this directory, it will be posted on a website so national and international readers can find it.

Melvin said her office will also run a series of seminars to help the tribes with tourism. The subjects will include customer service, marketing, research and resources, and itinerary development.

Before going to work for the Arizona Office of Tourism, Melvin spent three years as the program coordinator for Multi-cultural Affairs and Native American Services at Arizona State University-West.

She previously worked for the Affiliation of Indian Centers in Phoenix.

Melvin has a bachelor of arts degree in recreation and tourism management from ASU-West. She also has a post-graduate certificate in gerontology from ASU-West.

Melvin graduated from Tempe Union High School before attending Mesa Community College.

(Stan Bindell, former Observer editor, is journalism and radio teacher at Hopi High School.)

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