COLUMN: Recognizing cultural appropriation


Killeen Reidy, Columnist

It’s Sept. 22, and my friends and I are congregating in LSD’s lobby. When we’re getting ready to leave for dinner, a woman asks if we’re here for the transfer event: Catch Your Dreams.  

Catch Your Dreams was a transfer event put on by the Living Learning Communities events staff. It was advertised as an event where Career Services would be helping do career planning while making dream catchers.  

Dream catchers are an important part of various Native American tribes, one specifically originating from the Ojibwa tribe. The legend is that a Spider Woman could not reach all the baby cradles when the Ojibwe nation dispersed so dream catchers were weaved like webs to catch bad dreams.  

I first encountered the original advertisement of the event when it was sent to a Snapchat group chat. It was sent with bewilderment and met with that emotion and more: outrage, disbelief, etc. Our entire group seemed in shock that the university would even approve of this idea.  

It seemed disrespectful and borderline, if not straight up, cultural appropriation.  

Yes, I understand that the term has become a buzzword of sorts. However, there is a big difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation. Cultural appreciation is something to be cherished but can only be achieved with the intent to understand and learn about another culture, preferably with someone a part of the culture. Appropriation is when you take something from another culture for personal interest: because you think it’s pretty or cool. To my knowledge there was no person of indigenous descent there to help create these culturally significant items or explain the importance. Instead it was run by two white feminine presenting people and treated as a fun arts and craft project.  

In defense of the LLC event staff, a later post did instead advertise the items as “mobiles”. However, you can still find the original advertisement which has a dream catcher in the background. While I understand the event staff most likely wants to have themes around their events, there are other dream crafts one can do. For example, they could have done dream boards using a mixture of collage, text, drawing, etc. That could have been a fun and involved craft students could partake in which would even serve them after the event as a reminder of their goals, which the whole event was supposed to center around.  

With all this in mind, my friends and I declined the very polite invitation with little hesitance and made our way to dinner. Due to this I can only actually speculate how the craft was treated but nowhere on their social media did I see them discuss or show the importance of these items to native people. I can only hope that in the future, Eastern as a whole will be more conscious of respecting and appreciating other cultures 

Killeen Reidy is a junior English major. They can be reached at [email protected] or at 581-2812.