International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, so I thought I would tackle an issue of possible cultural misappropriation that has been bothering me.
Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of another culture. The problem is that when white non-native people adopt the elements of indigenous people's culture without permission, that is misappropriation.
The making and owning of dreamcatchers can be considered misappropriation. In some Native American tribes, dreamcatchers (or dream catchers) are woven willow hoops traditionally made to help babies sleep peacefully by catching any bad dreams. However, they have become enormously popular as general home decorations and fashion items, losing their cultural connection. What is worse is that they are often made and sold by people who are not Native Americans.
I made one myself. Now I wonder if I should feel ashamed and take it to pieces.
I admit I had always been fascinated by dreamcatchers. I think they are beautiful and I had long wanted to learn how to make one. Last year I got a chance to do so - at a moot in London, in England. Although the person teaching the skill was very conscientious about explaining the background and history of dreamcatchers - and did not charge anything for the class - she was not Native American and so, perhaps, was not an appropriate person to give the lesson.
The dreamcatcher, which you can see in the photo above, was made by upcycling pre-used materials including a metal bracelet, wool and some ribbon. Obviously these were not traditional materials either.
Although I am pleased to have learnt about the history of dreamcatchers and how to make one, I am now considering whether to take mine apart so as not to cause offence to Native Americans. What do you think I should do?
Note: According to Wikipedia: "Dreamcatchers originated with the Ojibwe people and were later adopted by some neighboring nations through intermarriage and trade. It wasn't until the Pan-Indian Movement of the 1960s and 1970s that they were adopted by Native Americans of a number of different nations. Some consider the dreamcatcher a symbol of unity among the various Indian Nations, and a general symbol of identification with Native American or First Nations cultures. However, many other Native Americans have come to see dreamcatchers as over-commercialized, offensively misappropriated and misused by non-Natives."
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