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So You Want a Dreamcatcher Tattoo…

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I’d like to think of myself as a hipster since I like to believe I am ahead of the curve (I was sooo wearing scarves 6 years ago). I have wanted a dreamcatcher tattoo on my torso for years now but 1) I don’t have the $$ 2) don’t know where to get it and 3) not sure I want it bc of HIPSTERS.

As a pinterest-aholic I like to peruse the images to get inspired through fashion, food and yes tattoos and what do I see all up on there? White girls (i.e. Miley Cyrus) with dreamcatcher tattoos on their sides in some provocative pose. Now I do not know for sure if they do not have any Native American in them but I can be sure that they probably don’t. That being said what would people say if I decided to get such tattoo since I am half white.

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However, I am half-Native aka Anishinaabe from White Earth. Having a dreamcatcher permanently on my body should mean more as an indigenous person than a hipster following a fad, right? RIGHT? At this point I’m not sure how to feel about it since it is seen as a fad and honestly I would want to get it somewhere on my torso. I think.

For me, a dreamcatcher is part of my heritage. I have had one hanging above my bed for as long as I remember. It is something I often give to people I care about. It also annoys me when people have it dangling from their rear view mirror (it is also a driving hazard people!). I have thought thoroughly about getting a dreamcatcher tattoo and what I want it to represent. So far as to ask one of my former students (when I worked in Indian Ed) to draw me a picture so I can have it based off of it.

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At what point does an image (or idea) belong to a certain group? Especially when it is something as ambiguous as a dreamcatcher. They have become Native American– not just designated to one particular tribe. I am sure thousands of people have them over their bed too and I am sure that they could hold strong meanings to them. I just don’t want to have it done, be on the beach and have some ignorant girl say, “Oh I have a dreamcatcher tattoo too! LOLz.”

I know everyone gets tattoos because they “mean something.” I feel that the meaning of dreamcatchers carries a hell of a lot differently for the hipster white girls then it does for us indigenous folk. I’m not against white girls either so don’t take this as an attack.

Question is: when is it okay for something spiritual (to another group/person) to become a fad? 

Is it okay? I also want a J.R.R. Tolkein quote as a tattoo. Would that be offensive to literary folk? I would think not–I feel it would be a connection. Is this what the hipsters are thinking when they have tribal tattoos? A connection? I don’t have a good answer.

For more info on cultural appropriation of the indigenous visit: http://beyondbuckskin.blogspot.com/ OR http://nativeappropriations.com/

The top and bottom images are credited to my former students Jenna and Asha who are still in school and I ❤ them dearly.

Also follow me on twitter: @reetah_kay

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