Catch a rare glimpse into Northern Arapaho culture just outside of Riverton, Wyo.
Every Tuesday evening in the summer, travelers can watch the Northern Arapaho Experience, an hour-long performance that showcases traditional and non-traditional Native American dances, at the Wind River Hotel & Casino.
“You’ll see everyone from a two-year-old to an elder dancing,” says Jackie Dorothy, former marketing director of the hotel and casino.
The weekly dance performance is just one of a collection of unexpected experiences you’ll have when you stop by or stay at the hotel. Although the Wind River Casino is the largest in the state, you’ll find much more than gambling here. A small museum in the lobby, staffed by elders, showcases Northern Arapaho history. Three restaurants offer a variety of food, including the latest to open, the Buffalo Restaurant, that offers everything from pizza cooked in a pizza oven to BBQ. In addition you can book “Adventure Packages” that involve a hotel stay paired with rafting, golfing or a dinosaur dig.
“What we are is a destination,” says Dorothy, noting the hotel and casino have come a long way since opening 20 years ago as a bingo hall. “You can stay at our hotel and it’s just a day trip to Jackson, Cody and Yellowstone National Park.”
Today, the tribe is the largest employer in Fremont County, thanks to the hotel, casino and other other ventures. But long before Europeans arrived in the West, the Northern Arapaho people were nomadic, favoring the area around Estes Park, Colo., at the foot of Rocky Mountain National Park, says Dorothy. But Dorothy notes Northern Arapaho lived in many places. There are words in the Arapaho language for the areas now known as "Florida” and “Arizona.” While there are not many fluent Arapaho speakers anymore, the hotel’s weekly dances in the summer keep tradition alive and educate visitors.
“We explain the history of the dances and talk about etiquette,” Dorothy explains. “It’s a great way to showcase our dancing.”
Go on a Local Tour or Adventure
Want to explore more? The casino can arrange for a private tour of the Wind River Indian Reservation where you can visit the final resting home of Sacajawea, the famous Shoshone Princess who led Lewis and Clark through the Rocky Mountains. Experienced tour guides will take you beyond the history books and give you an up-close and personal view of the Plans Indian Experience. While there are conflicting reports as to where she is buried, the Shoshone members that National Park Trips Media staff spoke with on their trip to the cemetery were confident that Sacajawea was buried at home in Wyoming. The old woman who returned to the Wind River area would not have lied about her identity, they say. It was not in her culture to do so.
Nearby, visit the colorful St. Stephen Indian Mission to see the church, museum and shop.
For the really adventurous, go on a whitewater rafting trip through the scenic Wind River Canyon. Looking for something more low-key? Take in two rounds of golf at the highly-rated Riverton Country Club.
The casino offers great hotel packages and other discounts to make this trip a winner.
From Rocky Mountain National Park to Yellowstone
Wind River Hotel & Casino is a good midpoint stop on a road trip from Rocky to Yellowstone. When you depart from Wind River, the drive features a glimpse of the Teton mountain range. Bask in the views before entering Yellowstone where the real fun begins. The wildlife, nature and Old Faithful will leave you breathless. Watching the sunset on the vast horizon will be the perfect end to your Wyoming adventure.
For more information:
10269 Hwy 789, Riverton, WY 82501
Hotel Reservations: (866) 657-1604
Customer Service: (307) 855-2600