Word: The creator is a Lakota journalist drawing from private expertise and data. As such, most examples on this piece will focus on Native American experiences and sources.
Over the previous few years, as I’ve turn into 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 this stuff, the underside line is, there is not any scarcity of those themes: I’ve seen every part from “Indian” costumes on your chihuahua to “Navajo print” underwear to kid-sized tipis.
There are some obtrusive 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, in truth, topic to copyright legislation.
However what about these tipis? Dreamcatchers? A few of these motifs have turn into so widespread in residence decor that I daresay most don’t even register their origins—or what that lack of information may imply.
Tipis, for instance, may very effectively be thought-about “simply” tents. What’s the hurt in that? Effectively, 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 1000’s of various cultures into one big stereotype, typically accompanied with myths and folklore slightly than precise information. Extra instances than I can rely, I’ve been requested if I stay in a tipi when folks discover out that I’m Native American. Sure, even in 2020.
And dreamcatchers are not any totally 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 option to take pleasure in or recognize this stuff with out harming Native folks?
In a phrase: educate. Don’t solely study in regards to the tribes that used tipis (it is not 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 stay in tipis anymore, however we do use them throughout non secular ceremonies. And generally we similar to to take pleasure in collaborating in actions the identical method our ancestors did, as a result of it helps us really feel near them—similar to making your great-grandmother’s Christmas fudge helps you are feeling near her.
And do you know that the Indigenous Sámi folks of Northern Europe used related constructions, referred to as lavvu? Perhaps you didn’t understand Europe even had Indigenous folks?
One other massive a part of the difficulty right here is asking your self who’s benefiting from promoting this stuff to most of the people. Are you buying a dreamcatcher from a Native American, or are you shopping for one thing from a mass-produced model that can reap income 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 particular person’s time, craftsmanship, and energy.
Typically, we predict that celebrating or appreciating one other tradition is just visible—we predict “Oh, that’s so fairly!” and, like little magpies, we wish it. What we don’t understand is that this stuff have an equally stunning historical past and that means, and studying about and genuinely valuing these histories makes it all of the extra particular.
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