Observe: The creator is a Lakota journalist drawing from private expertise and information. As such, most examples on this piece will focus on Native American experiences and sources.
Over the previous few years, as I’ve grow to be an grownup with my own residence to embellish, I’ve come to note the immense quantity of “Native American” decor on residence design websites and blogs. Whether or not that is the results of an uptick in reputation or my very own recognition of these things, the underside line is, there is not any scarcity of those themes: I’ve seen the whole lot from “Indian” costumes on your chihuahua to “Navajo print” underwear to kid-sized tipis.
There are some evident points with a number of of those examples. Fortunately, it’s turning into increasingly more acknowledged that dressing up (both a human or an animal) as one other tradition is downright offensive. And a 2012 lawsuit between the Navajo Nation and City Outfitters set forth an unprecedented instance that tribal names and cultural patterns are, actually, topic to copyright regulation.
However what about these tipis? Dreamcatchers? A few of these motifs have grow to be so widespread in residence decor that I daresay most don’t even register their origins—or what that lack of knowledge would possibly imply.
Tipis, for instance, may very effectively be thought of “simply” tents. What’s the hurt in that? Nicely, as Adrienne Keene from the weblog Native Appropriations places it, “My downside is that the tipis I see and the discussions round them at all times appear to contain some stage of fantasy play, you’re not simply hanging out in a tent that appears like a tipi.”
In different phrases, taking part in “cowboys and Indians” is dangerous to precise Native peoples. It reduces hundreds of various cultures into one big stereotype, typically accompanied with myths and folklore somewhat than precise information. Extra instances than I can rely, I’ve been requested if I dwell in a tipi when individuals discover out that I’m Native American. Sure, even in 2020.
And dreamcatchers aren’t any completely different: The legend and fantasy that encompass them are hardly ever mentioned alongside the precise historical past of the tribes who historically used them. So, what to do? Is there a method to take pleasure in or admire these things with out harming Native individuals?
In a phrase: educate. Don’t solely be taught in regards to the tribes that used tipis (it isn’t all of them!) however study how we used them. It’s actually fairly fascinating to learn the way they’re made, erected, and used. No, we don’t dwell in tipis anymore, however we do use them throughout spiritual ceremonies. And generally we identical to to take pleasure in collaborating in actions the identical approach our ancestors did, as a result of it helps us really feel near them—identical to making your great-grandmother’s Christmas fudge helps you are feeling near her.
And do you know that the Indigenous Sámi individuals of Northern Europe used comparable buildings, known as lavvu? Possibly you didn’t understand Europe even had Indigenous individuals?
One other huge a part of the problem right here is asking your self who’s taking advantage of promoting these things to most people. Are you buying a dreamcatcher from a Native American, or are you shopping for one thing from a mass-produced model that may reap earnings from one thing it didn’t invent? If you wish to purchase Native American artwork on your residence, be sure that it’s genuine and that you’re paying a good value for that individual’s time, craftsmanship, and energy.
Typically, we predict that celebrating or appreciating one other tradition is solely visible—we predict “Oh, that’s so fairly!” and, like little magpies, we wish it. What we don’t understand is that these items have an equally stunning historical past and which means, and studying about and genuinely valuing these histories makes it all of the extra particular.
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