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Campus-Based Ecotourism: A Case Study on the Power of Local Ecotourism

Academic campuses across the Great Plains can serve as landscapes for teaching and learning about native flora of cultural importance with regard to food, medicine, and lifeways. Campus visitors (tourists) and local community members could benefit from more place-based understandings of how indigenous plants provide nourishment of the mind, body, and spirit to
the people of the Plains. In an effort to educate and engage local community, the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) Native American Studies program collaborated with UNO’s Service- Learning Academy to develop an academic course aimed to support the development and maintenance of community-based indigenous gardens.

This course proved to be a unique way of cultivating ecotourism through engaged teaching and learning outside of the classroom. This case study, testing ecotourism theory, explores local ecotourism in a service-learning course and examines how the development of campus- based indigenous gardens can serve to protect and promote Native lifeways. This article presents the ways in which campus-community and outside visitors’ engagement with indigenous gardens promotes better understanding of local Native cultures by bringing diverse peoples, perspectives, practices, and pedagogies together through an ecotourism lens.