Indian Summers

Before "Dances With Wolves" there was Ian Frazier's "Great Plains," and before both of those recent takes on the American Indian, anthropologist Robert Vetter was studying and living among Native Americans in Oklahoma. But he figures the renewed interest in Indians won't hurt his business any. Vetter runs one-week tepee tours around Oklahoma with his partner Robert "Boy Chief" Fields, a Pawnee Indian and also an anthropologist.

The trips -- "not wilderness but cultural experiences" -- offer firsthand experience of the tribal lifestyle of the Plains Indians in the 1800s. Participants learn about the traditions, myths, crafts and cuisine of some of the 66 tribes (including Comanche, Cherokee, Seminole); attend inter-tribal powwows and "stomp dances"; live in a tepee; and learn ancient Indian songs and dances.

Tours cost $595 per person, excluding air fare to Oklahoma City, and emphasize different aspects of Indian culture. Scheduled dates are May 16-23, July 10-17, Aug. 14-21, Sept. 4-11 and Oct. 9-16. For information, write Journeys Into American Indian Territory, P.O. Box 929, Westhampton Beach, N.Y. 11978, or call 516-878-8655.

CRUISE NEWS You gotta know when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em -- and when to sign up for Poker Cruises' "Escape to Mexico" April 14-21 from Los Angeles. Join fellow poker faces for a week-long card party at sea, with low- and high-limit games that go on around the clock. When you need to come up for air you can join a deep-sea fishing tournament in Mazatlan or a golf tournament in Puerto Vallarta, just to keep up the competitive edge. And novice poker players are welcome. The cruise costs from $742 for an inside cabin to $1,992 for a suite, per person, double occupancy, excluding air fare. Call 800-234-1616. And don't forget: You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table. Go fish. The Great Sonoma Slug-Off Super Bowl XXV may be over, but don't despair -- there's still Slug Fest XII in California's Sonoma County to look forward to. If there's one thing the damp Russian River area has in the winter, it's enough banana slugs. So, thought the fest's founders, why not let them compete for annual honors: slugging it out for fastest, best developed (up to six or seven inches long and a good inch thick) and tastiest.

Starting at 1 p.m. on March 17 in Guerneville's Slug Pavillion, there's the Slug Sprint -- a rather sluggish affair with kids under 12 coaching their entrants. Then the Best-Built Beast -- winner of the "King Slug" title -- gets carried in a procession, adorned in velvet cape and crown. But the highlight is always the hotly contested gastronomic extravaganza: the slug-off recipe contest, with local, intrepid celebrity judges sampling such delights as Upslime-Down Cake, Slug Kabobs, Slughetti and Slug Sushi. How do slugs taste? Just fine, say the organizers, if you marinate them long enough. Would three months suffice? Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for kids and seniors. For more information, call 800-253-8800.

TRAVEL TRIVIA What is the newest national park in the United States, and when was that status conferred? TRIVIA ANSWER: THE NATIONAL PARK OF AMERICAN SAMOA, DESIGNATED IN 1988. (THE OLDEST IS YELLOWSTONE, ESTABLISHED IN 1872.) ON SKIS Going skiing in the United States and wondering what condition the (snow) conditions are in? Get the cold fax for 400 ski areas in seven regions, on a state-by-state basis, by calling 900-FUN-SNOW (386-7669) and having a one-page report faxed to you. Using a touch-tone phone, request information for the states you want, then punch in your fax number; minutes later, the report arrives, with info on weather, snow conditions and special events. Reports are updated daily and cost $2.95 per page. The haplessly faxless can access the same information by calling the Ski Bud Hot Line, 900-896-2283, at 95 cents per minute (also requires a touch-tone phone).

Skiers at Vermont's Killington can now book a guide to take them out for a day's skiing around the area's six peaks. The guides match the right trails to a skier's ability and offer tips on technique and local history. The cost is $180 for five skiers for five hours. For reservations, call 802-773-1330, ext. 437. A Cottage Industry Some people would rather read catalogues than shop -- and what's wrong with applying a little of that logic to traveling? Will you ever get around to renting a cottage in the English countryside? No matter, get a copy of "English Country Cottages" and browse indefinitely -- through several hundred pages of cottages, with 15th-century thatched roofs, from Cornwall to Cumbria, from simple to kingly. Rental costs range from $15 per person per night to $60 a night, with a one-week minimum (except occasionally during the winter). For a copy of the catalogue, send $3 to British Travel Associates, P.O. Box 299, Elkton, Va. 22827; for information, call 800-327-6097.

In the Event Of "Tourist Events, 1991" should probably be subtitled "Amy L. Beam's guide to the events she missed on her around-the-world jaunt and doesn't want you to." Oktoberfest in Munich? The Royal Ploughing Ceremony in Bangkok? She missed them all -- always arriving, it seems, a day too late.

So she has compiled a directory of more than 2,500 happenings in 85 countries worldwide, including the usual array of festivals, sporting events, shows, parades and fairs, and some events that are, well, more unusual. Want to attend a Camel Wrestling Festival in Turkey or the Konomiya Naked Festival in Japan, where 10,000 men streak by? (You may want to get a copy, just so you know when not to visit.) The guide is $19.95 at area bookstores. You also can place credit-card orders by calling 202-726-2948 or 800-766-2450, or send $19.95 to TTA Press, P.O. Box 9930-S, Friendship Station, Washington, D.C. 20016.