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Indigenous Heritage Tourism Development in a (Post-)COVID World: Towards Social Justice at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, USA

Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences; Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2261, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(22), 9484;
Received: 13 October 2020 / Revised: 7 November 2020 / Accepted: 11 November 2020 / Published: 14 November 2020


While a growing body of literature explores tourism impacts in search of sustainable outcomes, research on justice in diverse tourism settings is nascent. Theoretically informed studies drawing from interdisciplinary perspectives are just beginning to emerge to help examine contestations and injustices such as addressed in the case study presented here. The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (or “Custer’s Last Stand” as some know it; LBH) is a protected heritage tourism site that commemorates a battle between Native American tribes and the U.S. military in 1876. Indigenous stakeholders have struggled for decades with the National Park Service to overturn a long legacy of misrepresentation and exclusion from the commemoration and development of the site for heritage tourism. Site closures and other effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic present additional challenges for Native American stakeholders like the Crow Tribe. Guided by Nancy Fraser’s principles of trivalent justice (redistribution, recognition, and representation), this qualitative study traces the conflict over heritage commemoration, and explores the potential for praxis through ethical tourism development and marketing. Fraser’s trivalent approach to justice demonstrates the importance of interdisciplinary research to examine historically entrenched discrimination, redress injustices, and facilitate healing and well-being of diverse groups at sites like LBH.
Keywords: Little Bighorn Battlefield; commemoration; heritage tourism; social justice; Indigenous Tourism; recognition; Nancy Fraser Little Bighorn Battlefield; commemoration; heritage tourism; social justice; Indigenous Tourism; recognition; Nancy Fraser

1. Introduction

Tourism research faces interdisciplinary challenges due to the scale (local level versus regional and global) and scope of tourism (diverse areas including economics, socio-cultural impacts, marketing, heritage conservation, and planning and policy, among others). Destinations are susceptible to external environmental, geopolitical, and other factors (global warming, pandemics, terrorism, warfare, political strife, etc.), as well as local-level issues such as lack of capacity building and coordination of diverse interest groups. Tourism is a highly relational and interconnected activity that involves a wide range of stakeholders at the local, regional, and international level, who can affect the economic, social, and cultural well-being of destinations, residents as well as ecological health and sustainability [1]. While numerous principles have been advanced to guide sustainable development (SD) and sustainable tourism (ST) (e.g., [2]), the area of justice and tourism is young. Research on environmental and social justice is needed, e.g., addressing diverse groups and marginalized populations in the context of cultural and heritage tourism, where issues include cultural survival, oppression, domination, exclusion, and discrimination stemming from historically entrenched injustices, systemic racism, and colonization [3]. Interdisciplinary approaches and the coproduction of knowledge are needed to address these complexities, drawing from study areas like anthropology, sociology, feminist studies, critical geography, philosophy, and others.
The need for closer attention to justice and tourism is even more pressing as the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, continues to devastate communities and regions, revealing vast economic and social inequities. COVID-19 has caused major disruptions to global trade and mobilities, and tourism has come under the spotlight as travel and hospitality services ground to a near halt globally. Challenges moving forward include managing and regulating complex interconnected systems involving attractions, industry providers, tourists, local residents, governments, NGOs, and social–ecological environments (to name a few). Opportunities arise to address entrenched inequalities and social injustices in tourism and hospitality. A vast precariat class of workers struggling to make ends meet has become even more vulnerable as numerous low-paying service jobs have disappeared (the United Nations World Tourism Organization estimates 100 to 120 million direct tourism jobs are at risk due to the pandemic [4]).
Alongside these issues, protests over racial and social inequality have arisen worldwide as the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States has contested centuries of systemic racism and discrimination against African Americans and other issues. Conflicts have also been playing out in heritage tourism contexts globally, for example where statues and public monuments associated with colonialism and slavery have been contested, vandalized, or toppled by protestors (see, for instance: Tourism’s role in such cultural spaces is complex. Many positive economic and social benefits can accrue, but tourism also contributes to injustices, such as through the misrepresentation of Indigenous heritage, marginalization and exclusion of Indigenous residents from protected sites and ancestral lands, environmental degradation, and inequitable distribution of the costs and benefits of tourism development [5,6,7]. Yet, tourism can also redress social and cultural injustices, such as by countering stereotypes and marginalization, and facilitating respect and recognition of minority groups [8,9].
There is a paucity of research on approaches to justice in tourism that could aid in this task. Multidisciplinary approaches are especially lacking, and much can be drawn from areas like critical, feminist studies and political philosophy, such as Nancy Fraser’s (2010) trivalent approach to social justice [10]. Trivalent social justice includes justice as redistribution (of social goods), recognition (status), and representation (political), enabling parity of participation (through social arrangements that enable participation as peers in public life) [10]. Fraser’s approach has been used in other areas such as in urban planning policy (e.g., [11]), but has been little applied to the context of tourism despite its relevance to cultural and heritage tourism (see next section). This paper bridges interdisciplinary barriers to apply Fraser’s trivalent approach to: (i) examine conflict over commemoration at an Indigenous heritage tourism site that reveals historically entrenched injustices, and (ii) identify actions and opportunities for just outcomes for the Indigenous participants, particularly at a time when COVID-19 is further exacerbating challenges.
This is done through an exploration of the research literature plus a case study of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (LBH). LBH is a National Monument located in Montana, USA that commemorates a battle fought in 1876 in which a combined force of Native Americans from the Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Tribes defeated a U.S. military force and their allies from the Crow and Arikara Tribes. Today the LBH is a popular heritage tourism site managed by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS), and also an important place of remembrance for the different cultural groups involved in the battle. However, the site has a contentious history of development and conflict. For over a century Euro–American and military-centric representations dominated Native American perspectives, which were misrepresented or omitted, and Native Americans received little direct financial or social benefit from the site. Decades of resistance by Native American stakeholders and other interest groups resulted in increased recognition and inclusion. The case study traces these developments and goes on to explore how the LBH and its stakeholders are continuing to respond to the impacts of COVID-19. As demonstrated below, the outcomes of tourism continue to be challenging, but opportunities arise for fairness, equity, cultural well-being, and healing.

2. Literature Review

Socio-political and feminist theorist Nancy Fraser’s trivalent approach to social justice offers an important theoretical lens to address cultural injustices in tourism. The normative core of her approach is parity of participation where “justice requires social arrangements that permit all (adult) members of society to interact with one another as peers” [12] (p. 36). It is a political approach aimed at the institutional level, where overcoming injustice means dismantling the institutional structures that prevent parity of participation. The tripartite justice dimensions involve: fair and equitable redistribution of social goods; recognition in terms of political status of different cultural groups in society; fair and equitable representation in public processes and planning practice; [10,11]. Importantly, Fraser recognizes that socio-cultural and economic aspects of justice are interconnected so she addresses both distributive justice and the politics of recognition. Solutions could seek, for instance the redistribution of societal goods and necessary socio-economic transformations or reforms to address gender, racial-ethnic and other cultural injustices that impede recognition and fair representation in public processes [12].
Fraser’s approach is not exclusive to a specific field of study. As the literature review undertaken below in relation to the three principles shows, maldistribution, misrecognition, and misrepresentation have frequently occurred in heritage tourism. It merits investigating Fraser’s trivalent approach to redress cultural injustices and to establish a theoretical framework for the just and ethical development of heritage tourism.

2.1. Redistribution

Fraser regards redistribution as significant to resolve social injustice and this is a vital consideration in heritage tourism. Maldistribution relates to economic structures that result in inequitable distribution of resources, denying some participants the chance to participate fully as peers with others. Unjust economic structures and lack of rights to fair distribution are evident in many heritage destinations. The Palenqueras in Columbia are one of the numerous examples of the maldistribution of profits and powers. Images of the Palenqueras are used in various ways, including brochures, websites, and souvenirs without permission, and they receive little from tourists taking photos of them (see Case 3.1 in [13]). Similarly, the hill tribes in Northern Thailand are promoted as a popular tourism attraction, but the Indigenous people have been suffering from economic hardship and lack of appropriate healthcare and education due to the unequal distribution of tourism benefits [14,15]. Indigenous people taking part in tourism industry do not receive fair distribution of economic benefits in many other places as well, such as Bali in Indonesia, Ban Wangka Mon Village in Thailand, Tz’utujil Maya community in Guatemala, Mombasa in Kenya, Villages at Mount Sanqingshan in China, and Andean communities in Peru [16,17,18,19,20,21,22]. More than 90% of the economic benefits tend to go to foreign companies where external capital and foreign companies own most hotels and tourism services, e.g., in some areas like Machu Picchu in Peru [23]. Furthermore, although local governments and the tourism industry play an important role in the distribution of benefits in some places such as Dongpu, Taiwan and Beijing, China [24,25], many heritage sites fail to generate appropriate economic benefits to Indigenous people [26].

2.2. Recognition

As Fraser and Honneth (2003) discuss [12], recognition pertains to social standing, status and participating as equals in social interactions, and cannot be ignored in the face of increasing struggles related to religion, race, gender, and minority groups that face oppression and discrimination. Consider, for instance, the current Black Lives Matter movement noted earlier. It has become a global movement involving public protests and toppling of statues and monuments commemorating racist and colonial figures in public spaces. Misrecognition and exclusion of cultural groups by those who hold authority and power means that heritage can be remade and redefined politically [27]. Jamal (2019) points out “power relations play out through touristic and other practices in everyday life that can contribute to oppression, domination, misrecognition as well as stereotyping and stigmatization of diverse cultural groups” [13] (p. 90). Waterton and Smith (2010) draw upon Nancy Fraser’s politics of recognition in their study of community heritage [28]. They found that white middle/elite classes’ cultural symbols spoke for national heritage experience, and white middle/elite classes’ history were prioritized over that of others, such as black, ethnic, and feminine, in Britain. Smith (2017) draws on Fraser’s recognition principle in her study of five museums that exhibit immigrants’ histories and experiences in the U.S. and Australia [29]. She found that misrecognition was being cultivated through the representations that facilitated marginalization and injustice towards the immigrants (see also [30]).
As Fraser (2003) explains [12] (p. 13), cultural injustices are “presumed to be rooted in social patterns of representation, interpretation, and communication” and remedies would be oriented towards cultural or symbolic change, such as by recognizing cultural diversity, or “transforming wholesale societal patterns of representation, interpretation, and communication…”. Numerous examples demonstrate that inclusion and recognition of Indigenous knowledge into tourism planning and development can help to ensure cultural sustainability and Indigenous rights and way of life [31]. Johnston and Marwood (2017) draw on Fraser’s approach to propose a framework for heritage research to achieve social justice by disrupting misrecognition and maldistribution [32].

2.3. Representation

Fair and equitable participation and opportunities to participate in social and political processes is integral to Fraser’s notion of representation [33]. Unfortunately, tourism planners often fail to incorporate the voices of all the diverse groups or populations in the planning process [34]. Heritage tourism is no exception. Heritage is not a monolithic representation, it has different meanings to different groups of people [35], and thus it is crucial to incorporate the voices of those who stand to be most impacted by the use of their cultural heritage. Misrepresentation and exclusion by dominant groups of minority populations that face systemic racism and oppression is a particularly difficult challenge to transcend, even where “there is widespread criticism about misleading representations of Indigenous peoples and their connection to the past and contemporary forms of colonialism” [36] (p. 378).
Contemporary Indigenous people are often excluded from the management of tourism designs and activities [26]. According to Coronado (2014) [37], Indigenous people in Mexico and Peru are excluded from cultural heritage tourism management since they are politically marginalized. Similarly, Baird (2013) finds that certain Indigenous voices are excluded in controlling heritage at Tongariro National Park, New Zealand due to the incompatibility of Indigenous groups’ knowledge practices and customary laws with other stakeholders [38]. Niskala and Ridanpää (2015) analyze the representations of Sáminess in Finnish Lapland tourism brochures and find that the Sámi people have issues with how they are portrayed and blame the misrepresentation of their culture on the tourism industry [36].
The importance of representation and control over marketing, advertising, and promotion is evident in the numerous issues identified by various research studies. Magnoni et al. (2007) examine how Maya identities are misrepresented as homogeneous, when they are actually multifarious [39]. Māori people and culture in New Zealand also have been misrepresented from the past by colonial gaze, and misrepresentation continues in tourism commercials [40,41,42]. St. George’s Island in Bermuda has been mostly represented in marketing brochures as a leisure tourism attraction and resort island, even though it has a rich historical heritage [43]. Similarly, the tourism industry in Kenya creates images of Mombasa, Kenya, focusing not on the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures, but rather the luxurious hotels. [21]. Minority ethnic residents in Yunnan Ethnic Folk Villages, China, which is developed as an ethnic tourism area, have limited participation in the representation of their culture—it is influenced by the government and entrepreneurs for political and marketing perspectives [44].
In the U.S., Native Americans undertook numerous battles for their survival and were recruited and victimized in various colonial and imperial conflicts, such as the American War of Independence and the American Civil War [45]. However, they have often been excluded in commemoration of battles, resulting in selective, partial, distorted, and biased representation [46]. Elsewhere, specific heritage landscapes associated with a particular group’s memories have even be erased [6].

3. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

While tourism has been identified as a means towards sustainable development for Indigenous populations [47], including Native Americans [48,49], interdisciplinary approaches to justice and tourism are needed to identify and redress historically entrenched discrimination, racism, and oppression of marginal minority groups. The case study presented below demonstrates the importance of drawing on political and philosophical approaches to justice like that of Nancy Fraser to offer new perspectives and principles to guide ethical development of contested heritage sites like LBH.
The case study examines two diverse perspectives, that of the NPS who manage the battlefield tourism site, and the Crow Tribe, one of the Native American tribes associated with the LBH. We focus specifically on the Crow Tribe because they represent a single Native American cultural experience related to LBH, who are also tied to the site spatially (the Crow Reservation surrounds the battlefield). The Crow are also economically involved with the site: as NPS employees, partners, and operating other tourism and hospitality businesses.

3.1. LBH Background and Setting

On 25–26 June 1876, members of the Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Tribes under the collective spiritual leadership of Sitting Bull defeated a U.S. military force and their allies from the Crow and Arikara Tribes under the command of General George Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Since its occurrence, the LBH and its participants have endured as popular topics in American history, and the battle remains an important event for the different groups involved, who remember and celebrate the event in different ways [50]. Official representations at the national monument were initially military-centric and reinforced the dominant social narrative of “Custer’s Last Stand”. Through decades of Indigenous resistance and contestation of legitimacy and authority over the dominant narrative, the LBH gradually became more culturally inclusive and fairer to Indigenous victory (see [51] for a detailed history of the LBH site).
Today 765 acres of the original battlefield are preserved and interpreted by the NPS at the LBH National Monument in Southeastern Montana [50]. Different cultural perspectives are presented on-site through interpretive talks, gravesites, and commemorative monuments to both military and Native American participants. The battlefield consistently attracts approximately 300,000 tourists annually, and visitation is consistently highest from June to August [52]. In 2016 the June–August period represented 69.4% of all visitation [52]. The LBH site consists of two separate land parcels of NPS managed protected area connected by a tour road; each of which is surrounded by private farmland, not-for-profit battlefield preservation land, and the extensive landholdings of the Crow Tribe (Figure 1). It is “an enclave in the middle of the Crow Indian Reservation” [51] (p. 4).

3.2. The Crow Tribe

The Crow are a Native American tribe with approximately 11,000 registered members, nearly 7900 of which live on the Crow’s treaty-designated 2.2 million acre reservation in Southern Montana [53]. The governing Crow Tribal Council is located in Crow Agency, Montana, a Census Designated Place with a population of approximately 1500, located three miles north of the LBH National Monument [54]. During the U.S. military campaign of 1876, members of the Crow Tribe served as scouts for the army in order to protect the land around the LBH—which they had occupied since the early 1700s—from encroachment by their tribal enemies, the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne [51]. Although the military force and the allied Crow and Arikara were defeated at LBH, the land was ultimately restored to the Crow and the reservation was established.
The Crow have also been subjected to the same forces of colonization that have, and continue to, impacted the lives of Indigenous peoples in the United States and elsewhere. This includes a complex multicentury legacy of policies towards cultural assimilation and extermination, which have profoundly impacted contemporary Native American ways of life including self-governance, religious practices, economic opportunities, community health, cultural representations, and more [55,56,57]. The enduring legacy of colonization on Native American populations has led to their characterization as residents of the “4th World”: those indigenous to a region who are deprived of the same social, economic, and political benefits of other non-Indigenous groups [55]. They often experience low levels of income, education, and increased health risks [58] including high rates of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease [59].
Some of these impacts of colonization can be seen in the Crow Tribe. The Fort Laramie treaties of 1851 and 1868 granted the Crow over 38 million acres of land in what would become Montana and Wyoming [60]. However, by the 1950s, westward expansion, tribal land sales, and federal seizures had reduced this area to 2.2 million acres [51]. In total, 17.9% of the Crow population over the age of 25 do not have a high school diploma; and there is a 46.5% tribal unemployment rate [54]. Economic opportunities are lacking on the reservation, and while the tribal government is involved encouraging economic development, for example financing Crow businesses and home ownership [54], members have often relied on government support for social services and economic development [60].
The proximity of the LBH to the Crow Reservation has also provided the Crow some economic development opportunities through cultural and heritage tourism. Tribal members are both directly employed by the NPS and with ancillary tourism operators. Some LBH-related tourism operators on the reservation include private museums, gift shops, guided bus and horseback tour operators, food and beverage providers, and annual special events (e.g., reenactments, parades, rodeos, cultural ceremonies). In 2011, 62 Crow worked directly in the leisure and hospitality sector [54], and in 2013, 11 were employed by a Crow-run LBH bus tour company [61]. However, these economic opportunities were truncated by COVID-19.
The emergence of COVID-19 in the U.S. prompted responses from multiple levels of government, which included the closure of the LBH National Monument along with other NPS units across the United States in March 2020. In Montana, local, county and state level regulations were also imposed, including mandatory quarantine periods for out-of-state visitors, and social distancing measures. The Crow Tribe also implemented protective measures specific to the reservation, including curfews and nonessential business closures [62]. Tribal members even set up roadblocks to prevent nonresidents from entering the reservation [63]. Annual Crow summer cultural events and other LBH-related activities were also cancelled.
As of 1 October 2020, COVID-19 has resulted in 7.2 million infections and over 206,000 deaths in the U.S. [64]. As a vulnerable segment within the larger population, Native Americans have been disproportionately impacted [65]. In Montana, Native Americans make up 7% of the population, but represent 15% of all cases, and 36% of deaths overall [62]. Despite these high numbers, early in June the State of Montana entered phase-2 of reopening, and during the last week of the June the LBH National Monument also reopened in a limited capacity (primarily to vehicle traffic only). At the same time, the Crow Tribe extended their lockdown and social distancing measures to protect community health. In addition to the contestation over commemoration at LBH, the socio-cultural and economic impacts facing the Crow Tribe in the wake of COVID-19 provide a further context through which issues of justice and ethics in heritage tourism can be explored. Fraser’s (2010) trivalent approach to justice (redistribution, recognition and representation) offers a framework to identify key issues and suggestions for practical action and critical change (praxis) [10]. The main research questions are:
  • How has heritage tourism activity impacted redistribution, recognition, and representation for the Indigenous people affected by the commemoration and development of LBH?
  • How can tourism contribute towards social justice for the Indigenous people impacted by commemoration and tourism at LBH?

3.3. Research Methods

This study uses qualitative case study methodology [66], and draws on data gathered during previous [67] and ongoing studies at LBH. The lead author conducted data collection during weeklong site visits during each June anniversary of the LBH from 2015 to 2019: a busy time for tourist visitation and battle-related commemorative events. Data collection consisted of: (i) 30 unstructured interviews conducted onsite; (ii) participant observation at LBH related sites and events; and (iii) retrospective textual data including government documents, reports, news articles, books, websites, and other public texts created independently of the study.
Interviews included 7 members of the local Crow Tribe, 3 visitors from the Lakota Sioux Tribe, 4 international and 6 domestic tourists, 7 members of historical interest groups, and 3 LBH-related tourism operators. Interview participants were purposely selected based on their relationship to the LBH as a cultural tourism site, the research questions, and their availability to participate. Interviews were conducted informally: participants were recruited following a preliminary conversation at LBH-related attractions and other public events. Participants were commonly eager to share their passionate interests in the site, and often invited the lead author to interview and accompany them for a period during their visits. Interviews lasted an average of 30 min, and were guided by conversations and probes regarding the presentation of heritage at LBH. Interviews developed uniquely based on participant’s backgrounds, subjective views of the LBH, and previous experience with the site. Interviews were recorded on a handheld device with participant’s permission whenever possible, and when not recorded, key insights and comments were written as field notes. One key limitation was that the travel and social restrictions associated with the spread of COVID-19 limited further site and participant access.
Participant observation took place at popular tourist areas and events related to LBH including the battlefield, the Crow Reservation, private museums, as well as public events. The lead author participated in battlefield tours, LBH anniversary and memorial events, reenactments, campfire discussions, tipi setup; and attended public speeches, book signings, and parades. This facilitated in-depth access to different participants and their perspectives in the spaces that they occurred, as they occurred. All observations were recorded as field notes.
The emergence of COVID-19 meant that key research sites, populations, and face-to-face protocols were not available to complete data collection. Therefore, this study also relied heavily on pre-existing, publicly available textual data to inform the case study. Data were collected from institutional library database and public search engine results including news articles, websites, press releases, reports, social media, and other public textual documents. One benefit of this method was that it provided insights into a vulnerable population that would have otherwise been inaccessible. However, one key limitation of this method is that the researchers were not able to probe, clarify, or otherwise engage more intimately with participants.
All data including interview transcripts, field notes, and texts were transcribed for analysis. The data were analyzed in 2 stages. During the first stage, the data were read line-by-line and analyzed, guided by Fraser’s (2010) trivalent justice approach [10], using the principles of recognition, representation, and redistribution, which are outlined in the Literature Review. During the second phase, the data were reanalyzed to identify future directions towards just tourism and to make connections with the broader literature. Triangulation between multiple sources and methods was used to improve the trustworthiness of the data, and all authors were involved in the analysis and writing process.

Reflexivity, Positionality, and Decolonizing Approaches

This study has attempted to use a decolonizing approach as much as possible, which recognizes that research has often been undertaken in ways that privilege dominant Western knowledge at the expense of other subaltern understandings, (e.g., Indigenous traditional knowledge) [68]. We clearly recognize our positions as university-educated researchers operating with a dominant Western academic paradigm, and we are also reflexive of our position as cultural outsiders to the Indigenous tribes associated with LBH [69]. Western ideology influences the way that researchers view the indigenous “other”, and the ways (methods) in which knowledge and “truth” is pursued [69,70]. The research approach used here, therefore, strived to engage Native American participants in unstructured interviews that allowed them to generate and share knowledge on the LBH in their words and their ways of dialogue [70]. The lead author developed ongoing relationships and dialogue with different stakeholders over 10 years of site visits, including members of the Crow Tribe, which involved sharing insights and receiving feedback from diverse perspectives. Textual data also relied on Native American quotes and first-hand experiences to inform knowledge whenever possible. Dominant social knowledge and systems of knowledge production were also questioned throughout the research process in relation to the Indigenous experiences reported.

3.4. Findings

3.4.1. Conflict over Commemoration

Today the LBH is a historic battlefield and cultural heritage site that recognizes different cultural stakeholder perspectives [50]. However, culturally inclusive forms of heritage tourism representation and management did not always exist at LBH. The LBH was first established in 1879 as the Custer Battlefield National Cemetery. The site originally included individual graves to mark the places where U.S. soldiers were killed in battle, and in 1888 a granite obelisk engraved with the names of each military casualty was added. The site was transferred to the NPS in 1940, redesigned a National Monument, and a museum was constructed on-site in the 1950s [50]. This began a period increased interpretation on-site, which along with the military graves and monument, emphasized the dominant narrative of “Custer’s Last Stand”—a heroic–fatalistic narrative then common to other popular representations of LBH (e.g., films, artwork, books, songs)—over those of Native Americans.
Native American stakeholders of different tribes were not content with their exclusion and misrepresentation on-site. The battle represents an important victory in Native American resistance against colonization [50], and for decades tribal stakeholders and other interest groups contested their recognition on-site by pushing for a monument to Native American participants and removing Custer’s name from the site. These efforts led to resistance from pro-Custer stakeholders who wished to preserve the site as a military shrine [71]. Native Americans engaged in decades of conflict to achieve recognition on-site that included letter writing to NPS and other officials, political lobbying, and on-site protests in 1972, 1976, and 1988 [51].
As the LBH National Monument is federally managed by the NPS, major changes must occur within dominant, official management channels. This means that government legislation would be required to create a new monument and change the name of the site. For decades Native Americans had little access to the powerful decision-making structures at LBH, but this would change in the early 1990s. The first Native American and first female NPS superintendent of the site, Barbara Sutteer (née Booher), was appointed in 1989. Sutteer’s appointment began a new era of Native American inclusion on-site, including increased staffing and interpretation [51]. Sutteer also pushed for the monument and name change, a cause also taken up by Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a U.S. Congressman and member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. The efforts of Native American stakeholders and other individuals finally led to change in 1991 when Congress renamed the “Custer Battlefield” the “Little Bighorn Battlefield”, and authorized the construction of a monument to the Native American participants [50].

3.4.2. Redistribution, Recognition, and Representation at LBH

Following the conflict and legislative changes to the LBH in the 1990s, Native American representation on-site increased for different tribes, including the Crow. The creation of the memorial to the Native American tribes, officially known as the “Indian Memorial”, the placement of individual Native American graves, and the inclusion of Native Americans in site management and tourism opportunities demonstrate these gains. After its authorization in 1991, the Indian Memorial was designed through a national competition, but construction was delayed due to a lack of funding. Funding was eventually secured in 2001, when then superintendent of LBH, Neil Mangum, persuaded political allies on the federal level to enact funding legislation [72]. The representation on the part of Native American stakeholders in the political arena to legislate the Indian Memorial and its funding represents the redistribution of public funds (USD 2.3 million in funding) in a way that recognizes the status of Native Americans in society.
The Indian Memorial, themed “Peace Through Unity”, is situated on the battlefield near the longstanding military monument and represents each tribe associated with LBH. It was dedicated in 2003 and completed in 2014 following a decade of ongoing consultation with the tribes about what they wanted to include. This effort ensured the monument contained the words of the tribes and not the NPS [73]. The Friends of the Little Bighorn Battlefield organization describes the remarkable monument and its setting as follows (excerpts below, see the full description here:
  • The Indian Memorial will surprise you… if you didn’t know it, you wouldn’t know it’s there. From the visitor center it appears to be a mound, slightly lifted above the ground. There is already prairie grass sprouting from the outside walls blending it beautifully within its environment.
  • When you enter the Memorial, you enter another world—somber, deep, retrospective, and sacred. The Memorial is in the shape of a perfect circle. In the center is a circle of red dirt. Around it is a circled stone walkway. On the inner walls sit panels for each tribe that fought in the battle (Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Arikara). Each tribe lists their dead and there are some pictographs.
This memorial is an important site feature for Native Americans. As a member of the Sioux Tribe reported at the 2003 dedication “… everybody’s been waiting a long time for this. It’s the only monument in all the world for the Indian people and the first federally funded one. This gives me an opportunity to put my ancestors to rest” [74]. Yet this is not the only representation at LBH that provides justice to Native American stakeholders.
The LBH claims to be the only battlefield where individual graves represent places where individuals died in battle [50], but for over a century, these graves only represented military participants. Native American casualty sites were sometimes covertly marked by their descendants using stone cairns, but save one wooden cross erected by the NPS in the 1950s, there was no official representation of individual tribal casualties [51]. This changed in 1999 when the NPS began working in partnership with tribal stakeholders to identify and place gravestones [75]. This effort represents the redistribution of public funds towards the formal recognition and protection of Native American casualties in a status equal to that of the military.
Since the 1990s, Native Americans have also been increasingly involved in on-site planning, and interpretive efforts at LBH. Successive superintendents have affirmed that consultation with affiliated tribes is ongoing and there are positive community relations between the NPS and the tribes [61,76,77]. The cooperation between the NPS and the tribes is evidenced in anniversary celebrations at the National Monument: an important time for the many cultural and interest groups associated with the site. While Native Americans may have been present at earlier anniversary celebrations, they were not recognized as equals, and their perspectives were not included. One former NPS historian at LBH recalled: “no one ever asked them [Native Americans] how they felt about the speeches, [or] the version of history we were purveying…” [78] (p. 71). In contrast, today the NPS invites different tribal representatives to participate and speak at “official” events, and to host private cultural events on-site [77]. The changes in Native American representation, recognition, and redistribution have provided some redress to the historical injustice of exclusion, marginalization, and discrimination that the tribes have experienced in the commemoration of the LBH.

3.4.3. Inclusive Indigenous Participation in Tourism at LBH

In addition to increased inclusion in the commemoration of LBH, Native American stakeholders have also been increasingly involved in LBH-related tourism activity. Native Americans are employed by the NPS and are recognized as equals in interpreting the “official” story. As early as 1997 Native Americans held approximately half of the battlefield’s summer guide positions [79] and in 2016 the Chief Interpreter estimated that the Crow Tribe made up more than half of the site’s total staff [80]. Additionally, since 1997 a Crow-run bus tour company has had a concessions contract with the NPS to provide guide and transportation services on-site [77]: it is the only company with such a contract at LBH [50]. These employment opportunities allow the Crow to participate in interpreting their own culture and history, on their own homeland, and for an economic benefit. As one Crow tour guide (a descendant of an LBH participant) explained: “I tell people that the Sioux won the battle, but the cavalry won the country and we won this land” [81].
But the tourism-related opportunities for the Crow are not confined to the National Monument. The proximity of the Crow Reservation to the LBH has provided the Tribe with other opportunities to develop and participate in tourism operations. The Crow are employed at nearby businesses, including private museums, cafes, and souvenir shops. A Crow family also hosts an annual reenactment of LBH. The narration at this event connects the Crow’s historic service at LBH as military scouts to their modern contributions to the U.S. military, and salutes all U.S. veterans. This helps solidify the Tribe’s position as socio-political insiders. The busy LBH anniversary period in June is also when the Crow host other local cultural events, such as the Crow Fair, which includes a powwow and rodeo. These events, like LBH, are important cultural expressions involving the Crow language, equine traditions, traditional dress and material culture, and other practices. Despite the limits associated with the legacies of colonialism, the Crow have found ways to use tourism to their cultural and economic benefit. However, like all tourism developments, these are also subject to external forces, including public health issues like the current COVID-19 pandemic.

3.4.4. Complications and Possible Re-Igniting of Conflict Due to COVID-19

The Crow Tribal Council began to react to the spread of COVID-19 on 15 March 2020: declaring a state of emergency, postponing community events, imposing quarantine for those entering the reservation, and a curfew, among other measures [82]. Shortly thereafter, members also took measures to prevent outsiders from visiting the Reservation for nonessential purposes: establishing roadblocks, and requesting that the National Monument close [63]—which it did on 29 March 2020 [83]. Beyond protecting the health of the vulnerable Crow community in the short term, these Tribal mandates were also about long-term cultural survival. Strict measures have been imposed to protect tribal elders, who are often the keepers of cultural traditions including language and history [84]. Therefore, the closure of LBH was not a decision on the part of the NPS to purposefully curtain visitation during this important time of Crow cultural celebration and remembrance. Nor was it a unilateral decision made without Crow representation. This decision was made with the “guidance from the Governor of Montana and local public health officers from Crow Tribe, Big Horn County and State Health Department” [83]. As an NPS staff member affirmed in a live video stream, the site was closed “out of respect for our Crow and Cheyenne neighbors”.
These initial responses of the Crow and the NPS to COVID-19 demonstrate cooperation, communication, and respect between these groups, as well as recognition of the Crow as social equals (missing historically, but improving since the Crow took initiative to gain recognition of their role in the Battle of the Bighorn). Yet, this equitable representation in decision making between the Crow, NPS, and other public stakeholders did not last. While the Crow Tribe extended their lockdown and other preventative health measures through the end of August [85], both the State of Montana and the LBH National Monument began easing restrictions on tourism activity; even as increased COVID testing revealed an uptick in cases on the reservation, and other new infections were traced to out-of-state visitors [86]. On 1 June 2020, the Montana began stage 2 of its phased reopening for business and other social activity, which resumed tourism by ending quarantines for out of state visitors [87]. Later that month the LBH was reopened with guidance from the NPS Office of Public Health and the CDC [88]. However, unlike when the site was initially closed, no tribal consultation with the Crow was mentioned, despite the proximity of the LBH to the Crow Reservation, and the ongoing protective health measures imposed by the Crow.
While the Crow were maintaining protective health measures, public entities, including the State and the NPS, have simultaneously undercut these measures by reopening tourism activity. This situation could lead to potential conflict between Native Americans and other stakeholders [84]. From a sustainability and ethics perspective, moving forward at the LBH must mean more than simply reopening the National Monument to tourist visitation, or providing short-term economic stimulus to the local Crow population. The Crow Tribe are a key local cultural stakeholder group, and rather than misrepresenting their interests, tourism could be used to ensure more just forms of representation. It could be argued that respect and recognition of the rights and autonomy of the Crow should involve a more prolonged shut down of the nearby NPS site, out of deference and respect for the Crow people and their wishes. Or the state could make it very clear that while Native American populations in Montana continue to experience disproportionate rates of COVID-19 infection and death [62], it does not seek to resume tourism activity that could adversely affect its Indigenous populations [87].

3.4.5. Redistribution Measures and Crow Response to COVID-19

In response to COVID-19, entities on different scales initiated preventative measures to combat the pandemic. These included mandatory quarantines, and non-essential business closures (State, County, and Reservation level), the closure of LBH (NPS directed), and roadblocks in/out of the Reservation. All of these measures were intended to protect public health by curbing tourism visitation. However, these measures did not protect existing economic bases. As Henson et al. explain [89] (p. 1), “at the same time tribal governments’ primary resources were decimated (i.e., the earnings of the tribal governmental gaming and non-gaming enterprises dried up), the demand on tribes increased”. COVID-19 also heightened the impacts of other longstanding socio-economic challenges for Native Americans living on reservations, such as low incomes; high rates of unemployment; and poor infrastructure [89]. Rather than expecting tribes to do more financially with fewer resources, federal and state governments acted to provide economic relief.
In May 2020, the Crow Tribe received their share of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act relief funding [90]. Of the total USD 150 billion allocated under the CARES Act, USD 8 billion was given to Native American tribes. From this pool, the Crow Tribe received USD 25 million in funding; USD 4.5 million of which was earmarked for individual stimulus checks that were distributed to individuals at value of USD 500 each [91]. However, as tribal relief allocations were based on population size, there were likely issues with undercounting some tribal members, and also excluding other nontribal reservation residents [89]. Financial handouts were also complicated on the Crow Reservation because not every resident has a mailing address, or computer/internet access to register for individual relief [91].
For the portion of the CARES funding that was not distributed to individuals, government stipulations dictate when the money must be spent by (December 31), and how it should be spent, such as purchasing pandemic response-related equipment or mitigation efforts (e.g., personal protective equipment, testing kits) [91]. The State of Montana has also provided COVID relief grants, some of which have been awarded to small businesses on the Crow Reservation, including LBH-focused tourism operators who received between USD 5000 to 10,000 per business [92]. Yet even as Congress considers additional COVID stimulus funding, the long-term efficacy of such measures is less clear. These handouts may be short-term solutions rather than a hand-up towards economic self-sufficiency for the Crow. Crow businesses have now missed out on the busiest seasons of visitation to LBH [52], and as the pandemic is ongoing as this paper is being submitted for review, it is unclear how long closures and other restrictions may persist, or if the need for additional economic stimulus will emerge.

4. Discussion

Nancy Fraser’s approach to justice as parity of participation has been valuable in examining the case of LBH [10]. The results corroborate the usefulness of her trivalent approach to justice to addressing misrecognition, misrepresentation and misdistribution, with respect to historically oppressed and marginalized groups facing entrenched discrimination and exclusion. This section discusses some of the findings of the case study and goes on to offer some suggestions for post-COVID recovery and further advancing justice and well-being at LBH.

4.1. Redistribution

This pillar of trivalent justice is concerned with the fair and equitable redistribution of social good in society [10,12]. The case demonstrates redistribution of public funds to engage the affected tribes to resolve the conflict over representation, and to directly involve them in the process of planning and enacting the Native American memorial onsite. Public funds were also expended to identify and mark sites of fallen tribal members, and to involve the tribes in gaining economic benefits from the commemoration and interpretation of their history and participation in the Battle to tourists.
The June anniversary of the Battle is often the busiest single month of visitation to the National Monument [52]. In addition to highlighting Crow culture to large volumes of tourists, tourism to LBH also provides an economic opportunity for the Crow, who run events to coincide with the LBH anniversary. In addition to tourist spending at Crow-owned businesses and events, these entities also employ Crow residents, and in the case of the Crow-family run battle reenactment, provide vouchers for school supplies to young participants from the reservation. The Crow are also directly employed by the NPS to interpret and provide other services at LBH, and operate a bus tour company. In 2006 the tour company provided 509 tours to 8538 tourists, which in 2007 increased to 630 bus tours to 10,739 tourists during its operating season [76]. In 2007, tours grossed a reported USD 50,000, while in 2008 this increased to USD 56,150 [93].

4.2. Recognition

Recognition pertains to the way groups are recognized in society, and includes social status, standing as full partners in social interactions [10]. For much of its existence, the LBH National Monument was a place of misrecognition: where Native Americans, including the Crow, were omitted; marginalized; and their history and involvement in the Battle was presented with little consultation by site management. The changes that were enacted on-site throughout the 1990s–2000s, including the name change (“Custer Battlefield” to “Little Bighorn”), the addition of more culturally diverse interpretive themes, creation of Native American monuments, as well as increased tribal consultation and employment helped make the site more inclusive. While the Crow and other tribes were once presented as the faceless antagonists of the U.S. military [51], increased representation on-site has led to increased socio-cultural recognition as equals in society. Former LBH superintendent Sutteer, herself a Native American, reflected: “It’s that sense of accomplishment and a recognition of Indian nations. And I’m really pleased that the United States is finally recognizing the Indian people, what we call our reservations, nations within a nation” [94]. An Arapaho man added “To Native Americans this memorial is the first time in the history of the United States of America that aboriginal people are being recognized through governmental processes” [95].
The impacts of COVID-19, however, have meant that the Crow have lost opportunities for recognition at LBH. With no on-site interpretation provided by the NPS or guided tours by the Crow-owned company offered on-site, only roadside waypoints, a map/brochure, and a limited (and non-Crow narrated) audio tour persist to inform tourists and recognize Crow participation. Other local cultural celebrations and tourism events have also been cancelled: the 4-day Crow Fair event was cancelled for the first time in 102 years [96]. This has diminished the touristic audience that the Crow and their narratives can reach. While the Crow have achieved recognition at LBH, due to COVID-19 they have lost some opportunity to participate in additional cultural events and gain status, social standing and recognition as equals, both on-site at the National Monument and at other events attended by visitors.

4.3. Representation

Fraser’s trivalent approach to justice is concerned with participants having the opportunity to participate as equals among their peers in social arrangements (parity of participation). In addition to redistribution and recognition, fair representation in decision-making is required to facilitate justice [10]. For much of the National Monument’s existence, the Crow and other Native American tribes have been misrepresented and excluded from participating at the site in various ways. As noted in the previous section, while the LBH was established in 1879, the site did not have a Native American superintendent until 1989, and it was not until 1997 that a Crow-operated tour company was permitted to give interpretive tours on site. However, the prolonged conflict and resistance over tribal exclusion and misrepresentation has resulted in increased inclusion in planning and conservation: creating a Native American memorial (to redress misrepresentation of the tribes in the battle) through direct involvement and participation in the development and decision-making process; ongoing support and consultation to identify and mark Native American graves; on-site employment; and opportunities to host cultural events and ceremonies on-site.
Over time, LBH has become a heritage tourism site that encourages more equitable participation between different cultural stakeholder groups. However, COVID-19 has complicated representation for the Crow as discussed in the case study above. The LBH and state of Montana both reopened for tourists in June, while the Crow extended stay-at-home measures into August. The Crow decided to remain closed as an issue of community health, and their lack of representation in state-wide reopening is reflected a July 16 Executive Order from the Tribal Council, recommending that the County and State reinstitute stay-at-home orders [97].

4.4. COVID-19 Challenges

For the Crow Tribe, tourism is an important segment of the local economy, however the effects of COVID-19 reveal the vulnerability and instability of dependence on tourism, and the inequalities that exist and are exacerbated by such disruptions. This includes not only income vulnerability but also the vulnerability of certain ethnic groups to health-related crises and disease outbreaks like COVID-19. The measures enacted at different scales noted in the case findings are insufficient and far greater redistribution of economic and social assistance is needed to fairly protect vulnerable populations like the Crow and other tribes.
By not reopening for tourism, the Crow have prioritized protecting their vulnerable populations, elders, and cultural resources over economics. However, the results of efforts such as these could mean “billions in lost revenue for tribal governments” [65]. While the NPS may lose some temporary summer staff positions [98], and will forfeit the entrance fees of tourism visitation in the short-term, the LBH National Monument will still exist moving forward. As a federally funded historic site the LBH is highly resilient. For the smaller Crow-run businesses, the economic losses may be more absolute. For example, the annual LBH reenactment, which is hosted by a Crow family on land neighboring the NPS site, was cancelled for 2020. After cancelling multiple performances due to weather in 2019, this represents almost 2 years of lost revenue for the family, their employees, food and beverage vendors, and the greater community who benefit from tourism. Yet despite the financial losses the Crow have been supportive of self-imposed protective measures. As McLaughlin (2020) notes [84], “Across Indian Country in Montana, there have been no protests in favor of reopening or organized calls for getting back to business as usual.” While different public actors have attempted to address the economic issues associated with COVID-19 and tourism at LBH, ethical tourism development and marketing guided by trivalent justice principles offer some insights towards recovery, healing, and well-being.

5. Directions Forward: Towards a Trivalent Approach to Justice

Over the last several decades, increased cooperation and consultation between key LBH stakeholders, specifically the NPS and the different Native American tribes, have helped provide ‘just’ outcomes for these groups. Yet, as the case of the Crow Tribe demonstrates, the impacts of COVID-19 have brought new challenges towards redistribution, recognition, and representation. Moving forward, this study indicates that Nancy Fraser’s trivalent approach offers valuable guiding principles to identify justice-related outcomes for vulnerable populations and marginalized groups that have been subject historically to oppression, discrimination and exclusion from the use, commemoration and conservation of their cultural heritage. For instance, in the case of the Crow people and LBH:

5.1. Towards Redistribution

  • Redistribute public sector expertise for consultation and involvement with minority communities. Social goods should be redistributed to enable the Crow to participate directly in developing their own tourism enterprises (both with the NPS and independently), and also in marketing their cultural heritage and related community events. Crow tourism operators are primarily small businesses, with less national recognition or reach (unlike LBH/NPS, state entities, other DMOs). Destination marketing efforts by the NPS as well as area and regional destination marketing organizations and others who promote LBH (tour operators, travel writers, etc.) should acknowledge and support Crow businesses participating in tourism and the development of Crow events and visitor experiences. Involvement can also work toward fair representation and control over what goods and images they wish to share, and to help ensure fair distribution of marketing-related resources [99].
  • Equitably redistribute public tourism revenues to minority groups involved with heritage tourism. The Crow Tribal Council’s decision to close the reservation to outside visitors and to implement stay-at-home measures was intended to protect community health, but it has also meant less opportunity to perform or, more specifically, to enact cultural recognition and obtain economic benefits from tourism. It should be noted that with the Crow Reservation and tourism operators shut down, they receive no financial compensation for the representation of their cultural heritage at the battlefield. One strategy for addressing this unexpected shortfall could be to redistribute some LBH revenues towards the operations of the Crow bus tour company. The site entry fee could be increased to this end—in 2001, for instance, the site entry fee was increased from USD 6 to USD 10 per car to contribute to help fund construction of the Indian Memorial [100].

5.2. Towards Recognition

  • Enable diverse minority and cultural groups to gain status and social standing as equals among peers (a key principle of trivalent justice). The recognition of multiple stakeholders is important here, and participating in interpretive events and other interactive practices facilitates increased recognition and social standing among the visiting public. The battlefield is surrounded by the home of the Crow Tribe, and their unique status of being both American citizens and a sovereign tribal nation must also be recognized.
  • At the LBH relationships are needed between different stakeholders, including multiple levels of government (County, State, Federal), tourism operators, DMOs, historical interest groups, area residents, and Indigenous nations affected by the NPS commemoration of Custer’s role to the exclusion of their own role and victory.
  • Recognize a group’s rights to prioritize cultural well-being and physical health over economic gain. Other stakeholders must respect the autonomy of Crow decision-making to close the reservation to tourism. State, NPS, and other nontribal entities’ health restrictions (or lack thereof) should not contradict the protective measures of vulnerable Indigenous populations.

5.3. Towards Representation

  • Involve minority groups in heritage tourism development and marketing with full recognition of their autonomy, self-determination, and rights to develop and control heritage tourism. The proximity of the Crow Reservation to LBH has made the tribe willing and unwilling participants in tourism activity, and they must be involved in tourism decision-making. For economically marginalized areas like the Crow Reservation, recognition and representation simply cannot be ignored. The Crow should have opportunities to be involved in product development and decisions that affect their cultural heritage and community well-being.
  • Ensure fair representation and voice for multiple marginalized groups. Heritage involves the diverse perspectives of different cultural stakeholder groups. The LBH demonstrates that when groups are not involved in developing their own heritage tourism representations, they will contest representations and site management. Recognition, self-determination, autonomy, and control are key towards more just representations of heritage by the cultural group involved, and enables them to challenge other dominant groups’ interpretation of their culture and history.
  • Provide new opportunities for tribal involvement in tourism product development. As tourism activity resumes post-COVID-19, opportunities arise for the NPS and tourism industry to better address issues of representation and recognition through heritage tourism products. Increased Crow and other tribal participation in new (socially distanced) digital and audio interpretive products and branding strategies could facilitate visitor learning about the impacts of COVID-19 and other issues on the reservation. This would help to decolonize official interpretations by providing the Crow opportunities for self-expression and world-making.
The conflicts that occurred over Indigenous representation at LBH throughout the 1970s and 1980s provided the Crow and other tribal stakeholders with increased redistribution, recognition, and representation onsite. In this regard, inclusion in official heritage commemorations can help to redress historical and heritage injustices. Yet, as the case demonstrates, while the Crow are involved more than before, inclusion and consultation do not equate to full parity of participation at LBH, and further efforts are needed to facilitate social justice.
Justice-oriented principles like that of Fraser’s trivalent justice offer an important guide to evaluate and transform inequitable social and economic structures that perpetual systemic racism and continue to exclude underrepresented groups like the Crow from meaningful participation in social and political processes related to their well-being and cultural heritage (and cultural survival). Alongside key principles like autonomy and self-determination, they should have full recognition and representation, as well as sufficient resources through redistribution to be able to participate equitably and meaningfully in planning and decision-making related to heritage conservation, commemoration and tourism, as well as in social arrangements (e.g., through tourism-related activities) that enable the Crow to interact with visitors and other stakeholders as peers.
Figure 2 summarizes some of the principles outlined above which comport well with Fraser’s notion of justice as parity of participation and her trivalent general principles of redistribution, recognition and representation. They contribute to a picture of a pluralistic justice that is informed by general and particular principles (Jamal, 2019). This interdisciplinary study draws on Nancy Fraser’s approach to offers a partial picture of such a pluralistic justice. Future research is needed to further identify and situate tribal and other principles of justice that contribute to commemorative justice and ethical tourism development, management, and marketing at LBH and protected heritage sites similar to it.

6. Conclusions

Our study corroborates growing concerns in research and practice that, despite many positive benefits, tourism has also perpetuated significant economic and social–cultural injustices, including through misrepresentation of Indigenous history and heritage, marginalization and exclusion of local residents from protected sites, inequitable distribution of costs and benefits of tourism development, etc. The literature search undertaken above reveals a paucity of multidisciplinary research and theory building in justice and tourism, though progress is being made in identifying the issues that arise in this context and the need for more ‘just’ outcomes [101,102].
This research drew upon Nancy Fraser’s (2010) trivalent approach to justice to examine some of these issues in the context of Indigenous heritage tourism development and commemoration at the LBH National Monument [10]. As the case study showed, Fraser’s approach offers important principles to help evaluate cultural and heritage injustices related to LBH and facilitate commemorative justice through redistribution, recognition and representation for the Crow people. Furthermore, in the wake of a global health crisis like COVID-19, tourism can possibly play a valuable role in advancing justice as parity of participation [10] across various spheres of public life. Some suggestions guided by trivalent justice were offered above that may be helpful toward post-COVID recovery through ethical and just tourism development and marketing at LBH.
Future research should also evaluate the potential for tourism to contribute to a unique form of restorative justice and healing through parity of participation in heritage commemoration and heritage tourism. Ethical tourism development and marketing may possibly facilitate reconciliation and healing from systemic racism and marginalization through opportunities for joint dialogue with visitors (and other stakeholders), interpretive activities and events enabling recognition, respect and inclusiveness of marginalized cultural groups in the development, conservation and marketing of their cultural goods and cultural heritage.
This study of LBH thus contributes to a small but growing knowledge base and interest in interdisciplinary approaches to justice and ethics in tourism (see [13]). It suggests that Fraser’s trivalent justice offers a valuable approach to examine and redress injustices in such sites of heritage contestation, exclusion, and misrepresentation of historically oppressed and marginalized groups in conservation, commemoration, and tourism development. Here, redistribution, recognition, and representation appear to constitute general principles of a pluralistic justice, but as noted in Jamal (2019) [13], care must be paid to the situation and context, which in this case includes tribal history and cultural heritage, as well as settler colonialism. What do these principles mean to the Indigenous participants at LBH? What other general or particular principles facilitate Indigenous and cultural justice, and decolonizing praxis at places of contested heritage such as LBH?

Author Contributions

J.W. undertook data gathering and analysis, compiled the case study, and led the writing. S.L. undertook the literature review and contributed to analysis, editing, writing and formatting. T.J. contributed to conceptual framing, analysis, writing and editing. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


The authors received no external funding for the research reported here.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (LBH) and surrounding area (source: the authors).
Figure 1. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (LBH) and surrounding area (source: the authors).
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Figure 2. Example of principles to address contested heritage, commemoration and inclusion of marginalized groups, based on LBH and Fraser’s (2010) trivalent approach to justice.
Figure 2. Example of principles to address contested heritage, commemoration and inclusion of marginalized groups, based on LBH and Fraser’s (2010) trivalent approach to justice.
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