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Chris

Mertz
Comparative History


The Double-Edged Sword of Tourism



Tourism has been a hobby for not only Americans, but also mostly all middle

to upper class citizens worldwide for a couple of centuries. Starting around the 19th
century, after Enlightenment, the travels of the educated middle class to areas that
stretched outside of ones countries began.1 Fast-forward to current society and
tourism has expanded dramatically since its beginning. There are different types of
tourism that one could experience. It can range from visiting a city such as London,
Paris, New York City, San Francisco, and the history it holds, to exploring the
wilderness of Yellowstone National Park or the Amazon Jungle. Between just these
two examples comes a popular trend of observing and engulfing into an ancient
world. Civilizations have not only been under research but also looked upon as
tourist attractions would as such as the Egyptians, Mayans, Mongols, and Natives of
America and Central Asia. The latter two are of a special interest, the Lakota Sioux of
the United States and the Kazakh people of what is today Kazakhstan. Within these
tours visitors are looking for that cultural experience that is out of the norm of their
day-to-day lives. Not only are tourists looking for a cultural outreach but also one
that is authentic. In Phillip Delorias book Playing Indian, he specifically frames out
just what authenticity is. The authentic, as numerous scholars have pointed out, is a
culturally constructed category created in opposition to a perceived state of
inauthenticity. The authentic serves as a way to imagine and idealize the real, the

1 The History of Tourism: Structures on the Path to Modernity- EGO. EGO. 2010.

traditional, and the organic in opposition to the less satisfying qualities of everyday
life those seeking authenticity have already defined their own state as inauthentic,
they easily locate authenticity in the figure of an Other.2 Tourism has become a
subject of large economic focus and for people such as the Lakota Sioux and
Kazakhs; they rely on the business that comes from tourism. Whether tourism to
these regions of South Dakota and Kazakhstan are successful or not, films that
portray these people usually have some sort of an effect on the tourism business.
With all these factors implemented into the system of tourism, the Lakota and
Kazakh populations may take a negative morale hit but economically the
opportunities are too tasty to let go of.

In the foundation of the broad spectrum that is tourism, cultural awareness

and inter-activeness has become a staple within it. Whether the exposure of a
culture is used as the center point of the tourism motive or if it serves as just an
additive to the overall experience of the tourist, either way the tourist interacts in
learning about how a culture used to live and how these people are keeping some of
the traditions alive. An example of this was back in 2009 where Kazakhstan worked
out a deal with Jordan to set up a festive time that was labeled with the name
Kazakh cultural days. Kazakh Ambassador Bulat Sarsenbayev told The Jordan
Times that the four-day cultural event, slated to begin on November 2 (2009), will
also include an exhibition showcasing Kazakh handicrafts and jewelry dating back
thousands of years.3 Instead of people coming to Kazakhstan to witness these

2 Deloria, Philip Joseph. Playing Indian. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 101.
3 Hazaimeg, Hani. Kazakh Culture to be showcased in November. The Jordan Times.
October 13, 2009.

happenings, Kazakhs decided to bring the culture to them. This provides a


convenient factor for the tourist in Jordan and gives them the impression that
Kazakhs are open people and why shouldnt we explore their culture if they are
putting in the effort to come here and show off their culture. The event will include
diverse activities such as orchestra, opera, jazz, and dance performances, he said,
adding that the event intends to introduce as many Jordanians as possible to Kazakh
culture.4 Having control of how a culture is presented and perceived to other
populations such as Jordanians is a powerful thing and allows things to be played in
the ballpark of the Kazakhs instead of the tourist. With this system of providing
knowledge to the tourist about culture, the Sioux have the same mentality. The
Dakota, Lakota, and Nakota Sioux are focusing their efforts on cultural tourism. By
working together, the tribes aim to welcome visitors into their communities in order
to educate them on their fascinating history and unique culture, and to share their
hospitality and their authentic art.5 To go back to Delorias theory on authenticity,
these tribes figured that they have control what of people see and what they can
perceive as authentic just like the Kazakhs and their products. Authentic displays of
early Plains life of the Sioux help visitors envision the past including a sweetgrass
tour, a sage tour, a berry gathering tour and a corn tour and site-specific tours
including an interpretive areas tour, wildlife viewing and photo hunting, an


4 Hazaimeg, Hani. Kazakh Culture to be showcased in November. The Jordan Times.
October 13, 2009.
5 Lefevre, Natalie. Cultural Tourism on South Dakotas Native American Reservations.
Ethical Traveler. September 5, 2013.

agriculture and ranching tour, and an economic development tour. 6 By this odd
assortment of tours that one could take, it presents the idea that these people are
really stretching hard to provide a knowledgeable and engaging tour of Sioux
culture. Applicable to both the Kazakh and Sioux cultures, Tourism presents not
only an economic opportunity but also a chance to educate outsiders about the
tribes culture and way of life in order to tackle the stereotypes of Native Americans
in mainstream society.7

The cultural enlightenment that is provided to the visitor is one thing, but for

the host land like Kazakhstan and North and South Dakota, the reality of it comes to
the focus of economic efforts and the reliance on those efforts. For Kazakhstan to
not only boost tourism to the country but to benefit off of it, they were granted the
opportunity to host the Asian Games which was the largest sporting event in the
world after the Summer Olympics in 2010.8 Kazakhstans Minister of Sports,
Temirkhan Dosmukhambetov, said that major sports events can increase inbound
tourist flow in the host nation by as much as 50 percent anticipates 15,000 foreign
tourists will visit Kazakhstan during the Winter Games.9 This large influx of people
venturing into the country offers great openings to thrive economically especially to
a country that is not only very young but events like the Asian games are crucial


6 Lefevre, Natalie. Cultural Tourism on South Dakotas Native American Reservations.
Ethical Traveler. September 5, 2013.
7 Lefevre, Natalie. Cultural Tourism on South Dakotas Native American Reservations.
Ethical Traveler. September 5, 2013.
8 Anonymous. Asian Games Could Jump-Start Kazakh Tourism. The Times of Central Asia.
November 17, 2010.
9 Anonymous. Asian Games Could Jump-Start Kazakh Tourism. The Times of Central Asia.
November 17, 2010.

takeoff opportunities for nations seeking to develop fledging tourist industries.10


Kazakhstan being selected for the 2010 Winter Asian Games allowed the country to
increase investment on areas such as accommodation services, public
transportation, telecommunication systems and the airports.11 This in turn, creates
substantial local employment and training opportunities in tourism and other
sectors such as construction while stimulating demand for small and medium
businesses.12 The skills gained from this experience for Kazakhs is one that
strengthened the society and put Kazakhstan on the map on the international level.
Unfortunately the Lakota Sioux havent had quite the same opportunities to gain and
profit from large sporting events, as the Kazakhs were able to. But the Lakotas are
looking to become more internationally involved in terms of tourism. In 2004, a
travel group of British tourists visited the Lakota reservation and They came, they
saw, they learned and they dropped money, lots of money; and they are coming back
with more. Thats what a group from England said after they spent nine days on
reservations with Lakota people in South Dakota. We were pioneers, said Valerie
Fisher. We didnt come to sell beads, we came to buy them We spent money on
the reservations, with the people who made the artwork. We wanted to give them
the money.13 The tour director of this trip was Maureen Murnan and she said that
there is great interest in the American Indian culture from people in England and

10 Anonymous. Asian Games Could Jump-Start Kazakh Tourism. The Times of Central Asia.
November 17, 2010.
11 Anonymous. Asian Games Could Jump-Start Kazakh Tourism. The Times of Central Asia.
November 17, 2010.
12 Anonymous. Asian Games Could Jump-Start Kazakh Tourism. The Times of Central Asia.
November 17, 2010.
13 Melmer, David. Tourism makes good economic sense. September 1, 2004.

that they want to understand the American Indian culture of the 21st century.14 This
new foreign population appears to be a new positive outlook on economic growth
within the reservation. Not only would tourism bring in money but also it would
bring employment to the Sioux population. On the South Dakota reservations
where unemployment can reach upwards of 80 percent, tourist dollars are
welcomed. The Alliance for Tribal Tourism Advocates (ATTA) is working toward the
establishment of a viable tourist industry that can bring in revenue to the
reservations and individual entrepreneurs.15 Tourism not only provides the visitor
the chance to embrace another culture but it can serve as an economic reliance.
With the Winter Asian Games held in Kazakhstan in 2010, it provided Kazakhs with
employment and develops skills that will last them longer than just a sporting event.
Even though the Lakota people werent presented with the same opportunities as
the Kazakhs. With this notion to reach out internationally to bring in a foreign
tourist crowd is centered on economic need from the tourist dollar.

Whats interesting about tourism and people wanting to visit a specific area

is that it can be sparked by a handful of different factors. One of which is the


influence of film and media in turn creates an interest factor for travelers. Both the
Kazakh and Lakota have dealt with the repercussions of their people being
portrayed in film. In Kazakhstans case, the movie Borat, which was very successful
in America by grossing more than $116 million in five weeks16, was a movie where it
portrayed the country of Kazakhstan in a culturally insensitive way. Even though the

14 Melmer, David. Tourism makes good economic sense. September 1, 2004.
15 Melmer, David. Tourism makes good economic sense. September 1, 2004.
16 Mangan, Dan. Kazakh Tourisms Borat Boom New York Post. December 04, 2006.

point of the movie was to dumb down the country, the country itself found a spike in
tourism interest after the release. After weeks of being the laughingstock of the
wildly popular mockumentary film, Kazakhstan could end up laughing all the way to
the bank as curious tourists flock there In anticipation of a new wave of tourists,
Travelex, the foreign currency-exchange company, has ordered nearly $1 million in
teng, the currency of Kazakhstan.17 To harness this new wave of interest, a travel
company in Almaty decided to challenge the image that the movie Borat created of
the Kazakh people. Sayat Tours is using the slogan, Take the, Borat to market its
Kazakhstan vs. Boratstan Tour of the countrys spectacular deserts, soaring
mountains and beautiful women.18 For the Lakota it isnt just the fact that the
entirety of the Sioux tribe got misrepresented in the movie Dances with Wolves
but they did not benefit financially in any way off of it even though the Lakota tribe
serves a vital role in the film. Tourism adds $785 million yearly to the South Dakota
economy and is the second-biggest industry behind farming in the sparsely
populated state. Few of those tourist dollars reach the reservations.19 Not like in
Kazakhstan where they have the opportunities to challenge and rebrand their
image, economically the Lakotas dont have that same window of opportunity.
There are however ambitious stirring on the Lakota reservations that will pump up
economic wealth. If make it place to go and learn about Lakota history, then its
going to be as important to us as Mount Rushmore, which attracts 2 million people


17 Mangan, Dan. Kazakh Tourisms Borat Boom New York Post. December 04, 2006.
18 Mangan, Dan. Kazakh Tourisms Borat Boom New York Post. December 04, 2006.
19 Harrison, Eric. Lakota Suffer as Others Profit From FilmSouth Dakota Tourism Rises,
But Indians Dont Dance With Wolves Los Angeles Times. August 4, 1991.

annually, she said (Susan Edwards, tourism director of South Dakota).20 With the
economic hardships that the Lakota face daily, the misrepresentation of the tribe in
Dances With Wolves is one that hits harder than a weak economy. It diminishes the
true image of the Lakota and takes what seems like their only voice away and
putting it in the hands of filmmakers.

Tourism serves as a hobby for those who find an interest in traveling and

learning. The implications that are involved in tourism differ from site to site and
the subject matter. Investigating a new culture for tourist is the motive behind why
they even bother visiting the Lakotas or traveling to Kazakhstan. With the culture
interest comes the high revenue of money that can flow in. The economic flow of
tourism can be saved by international events such as the Winter Asian Games.
Whether tourism to these regions of South Dakota and Kazakhstan are successful or
not, films that portray these people usually have some sort of an effect on the
tourism business. With all these factors implemented into the system of tourism, the
Lakota and Kazakh populations may take a negative morale hit but economically the
opportunities are too tasty to let go of.


20 Harrison, Eric. Lakota Suffer as Others Profit From FilmSouth Dakota Tourism Rises,
But Indians Dont Dance With Wolves Los Angeles Times. August 4, 1991.

Bibliography

Anonymous. Asian Games Could Jump-Start Kazakh Tourism. The Times of Central Asia.
November 17, 2010.

Deloria, Philip Joseph. Playing Indian. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. 101.

Harrison, Eric. Lakota Suffer as Others Profit From FilmSouth Dakota Tourism Rises, But
Indians Dont Dance With Wolves Los Angeles Times. August 4, 1991.

Hazaimeg, Hani. Kazakh Culture to be showcased in November. The Jordan Times. October
13, 2009.

Lefevre, Natalie. Cultural Tourism on South Dakotas Native American Reservations.
Ethical Traveler. September 5, 2013.

Mangan, Dan. Kazakh Tourisms Borat Boom New York Post. December 04, 2006.

Melmer, David. Tourism makes good economic sense. September 1, 2004.

The History of Tourism: Structures on the Path to Modernity- EGO. EGO. 2010.