Dreamcatchers: Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation

backlit blur close up dawn

Do you love dreamcatchers? That’s great!

Do you know which First Nations people they originate from? Because it’s not an “Indian” thing; it’s an Ojibwe thing

In this episode, Anishinaabe (Ojibwe/Chippewa) host Sofia Syntaxx dishes about dreamcatchers, what they mean, and what the appropriate way for non-Native people to use them is. (HINT: Definitely don’t buy a mass produced one!)

Learn the meaning of the Anishinaabemowin word “asabikeshiinh.”

dream-catcher or dust-catcher?

Digressions include our new theme song written and performed by Marcusworx, slacktivism, the importance of dreams, and Franchesca Ramsey. Sofia also calls us in to examine instances of cultural appropriation outside of indigenous cultures, including how natural black hair at work became a civil rights issue.

can non-native people use dreamcatchers?

Yes, but they should take care to only purchase them from indigenous makers and craftspeople. It is preferable if they are from the Ojibwe tribe, but Pan-Indian is still better than Non-Indian, in my humble opinion. DO NOT buy dreamcatchers from big name chain stores.

When non-Native people and businesses make and sell dreamcatchers, that is cultural appropriation.

It is not cultural appropriation for tribes and Native people to use, make, sell dreamcatchers the way they always have.

The very best way to appreciate other cultures is to learn about them, and then to be intentional and respectful in how you demonstrate that appreciation.

Here is a list of makers if you are interested in purchasing a dreamcatcher for yourself or a loved one.

As a general rule I would avoid Etsy and other craft portals. Sites sponsored by indigenous agencies or that have tribal affiliations are a better bet in terms of authenticity.

beige dreamcatcher near green plants
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Appreciating does not mean taking. Yes, it’s the American way, but frankly, it represents the worst of America. You can love the way something looks without feeling entitled to it.

Cultural appropriation is harmful because it is an extension of centuries of racism, genocide, and oppression. Cultural appropriation treats all aspects of marginalized cultures as free for the taking. This is the same rationale that has been, and still is, used to steal land and resources from Native people.

Cultural appropriation of ceremonies and objects removes and distorts these traditions and things from their original contexts and into gross caricatures, disregarding for the history and present-day reality of oppression.

🎙️ Hosted by Sofia Syntaxx
🗣️ Using humor to educate & radicalize
🤯 Inspiring stories, resources & strategies to decolonize your mind

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Further reading

red leaf trees near the road

What’s the deal with Thanksgiving?

Sofia Syntaxx reveals why she hates November and answers the ever-popular question, “Do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?” Learn the meaning...


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