For anyone that might think it’s their duty to “educate me” etc. First of all, I am a 27 year old adult that has taken numerous humanity, anthropology, and history courses. When I go back for my Graduate work, it will be ON Anthropology. I am completely educated on what is cultural appropriation, what is cultural appreciation and what is just obsessive nonsense.
I am pagan, with many Native friends. My spiritual Mentor and Guide is a Lakota Shaman, and she is wonderful! Many of my beautiful fans, medicine bags, beaded items, and Native art are originals by her. I feel truly blessed to have them in my house and many were made especially for me.
I smudge, I wear moccs, I study Native Medicine, I use Native fans, I have spirit guides and some are spirit animals. When I am invited, I take part in Native ceremonies/healing practices. I do not own dreamcatchers but I have in the past, purchased from a Native artist.
None of these practices are appropriation. If you have been told otherwise, then please please check your facts with someone who is a regular participant in a Native Tribe.
What is appropriation?
It’s when you imitate (incorrectly) a closed cultural practice that associated with a culture or religion that has been oppressed, stigmatized, stereotyped, and is a normal victim of white oppression.This can come in the form of making native crafts without being native and benefitting from sales. Or wearing cultural dress as a white person. Being white, we are praised for wearing the fashion or style, meanwhile our Native friends are still oppressed and stigmatized for their culture. Incorrectly depicting native practices without being Native are all forms of Appropriation.
Things incorrectly labeled as appropriation.
Tribes make a large part of their income by holding Pow Wow’s; Native Cultural events where the public is invited to come in, watch, learn, sometimes participate. They teach smudging, they sell sage bundles, they will teach herbalism and recognizing plants, they even teach Native music and flute playing, drums, etc.
There are other closed practices that are not held at these events, such as the sweat lodge, and certain other Tribe Specific Ceremonies whose practices are not shared or open to the public, and there are specific practices reserved only for Native Performers.
But smudging, and anything else they publically teach non-natives is encouraged and perfectly okay. If you have the opportunity to attend a Pow-Wow, do so! It’s a wonderful way to learn about Native Cultures from the source. Which is exactly how they want you to combat appropriation.
What can I do?
Spirit Animals and Guides are present across almost every Pagan or Pantheistic Religion. And the meanings and messages associated with these animals can be similar cross-culturally. You can absolutely have a spirit animal!
Feathers in the hair is also a cross-cultural thing! Avoid wearing them in a specifically Native fashion, like headdresses. But… birds were in all regions of the world, and pagan cultures wore their feathers! I wouldn’t pair feathers with moccs, or other specifically Native American Dress because it could lead to a misunderstanding, but feathers do not belong to a specific culture.
Wearing/Buying Moccasins? Go for it! But please TRY to purchase from Native sources so that you are supporting Native Tribes directly. If you can’t afford it or don’t have a place nearby that sells them, it’s okay. But whenever possible try to buy from a Native Source. Also remember, animal skin shoes were part of all ancient cultures, not just Native. Although the name moccasin is Native American.
Making/Selling Moccasins? Please refrain. You are stealing revenue from Native Nations. This IS appropriation, especially if you are claiming they are “Native American” or “Indian”.
Buying/Wearing things labeled “Native American/Indian” Yes yes yes! Just make sure that it is from a true native source. Jewelry, blankets, shirts, beading, clothing, moccasins, everything!! If it is sold BY a Native, you can definitely wear it! This is not appropriation at all!!!!
Making/Selling things Labeled “Native American/Indian” when you are not Native NO! ABSOLUTELY NOT! YOU ARE NOT ONLY APPROPRIATING BUT YOU ARE COMMITTING A CRIME.
Buying/Wearing things from chain stores that have Native themes but are not Native Made NO NO NO!!! DO NOT! Avoid things with pictures of Indians, Dream Catchers, Native “looks”. THIS IS APPROPRIATION! A fashion designer and chain store has decided to profit from the Native Cultures without assisting them in any way. If you want to take a step further, talk to the designers, and stores that care these clothes about appropriation, or write letters.
yes you can! But only from Native sources. The Law that actually protects Native Crafts is called the Dreamcatcher Act.
Making/Selling Dreamcatchers No, it’s actually a crime, and is fully prosecutable. See Dreamcatcher Act.
And so, in closing… there ARE native practices that I have been taught. Unless they are OKAY for you to share/practice, I won’t share them on my blog. I DO own lots of Native Made items that you will see in pics of my house/space. With them, I honor my Native Friends, I honor the beautiful land in which I live, and those pagans that came before in America. I smudge, I smoke cleanse (yeah they are slightly different), I own native drums and I play, I own Native Flutes and I play, I practice some acceptable Native Medicine that I have been taught, and I wear feathers in my hair in a northern european and viking styles at fests. I know what I am doing. I always make sure that I am being respectful to Natives and other Closed Cultures that often are appropriated.
**Why are Whites always targeted in these posts? They are not. Historically speaking it was white European Settlers that oppressed, enslaved, and eventually committed genocide of over 600+ Native Nations. That is 600+ Cultures that are GONE forever. After that they turned them into entertainment at shows, in movies, and made Native styles fashionable. This is Privilege; to believe that you can do whatever you want with another culture. And today, it is primarily White individuals that seem to think that “Native” is a fashion statement or “trendy”, or “boho”. While other races can appropriate, it is less common here in America. Minorities are more likely to respect other cultures and their difficulties because their of their own struggles with racial stereotypes, racial oppression, and cultural theft. If you look at this post and think to yourself “this just targets white people”, then you are in another pitfall of white privilege - thinking everything is about you. It isn’t about you. It is about respecting another culture’s boundaries between being a joke and having people educated about their history and value.