If you’re Native American or an admirer of Native American culture, then you may want to incorporate some Native American arts and crafts into the decor of your home. But since appreciation sometimes unintentionally fuels cultural appropriation, you may want to ask yourself these three questions to ensure that you are being ethical and respectful:
- Where Is It Made, and by Whom?
Whenever possible, you should buy Native American art made by Native Americans. Not only does this ensure a level of quality and authenticity, it means that your purchase is supporting a Native American artisan. In fact, you should try to buy all your contemporary art, Native American or not, from artists (or dealers closely associated with artists).
- Is It Regionally Informed?
Art shouldn’t always be expected to be 100% authentic; it’s OK to buy art that’s simply inspired by Native American culture. But you should be informed of that fact and do a little research. You should also try to learn which specific group of people is tied to your art or its inspiration. Buffalo skulls, for example, might be used very differently in the art of Northeastern tribes than that of Southwestern tribes.
- What Is It Used For?
Many Native American crafts are practical items that are also beautiful, such as baskets or musical instruments. Native American weapons are also commonly used for decorating purposes. One of the ways you can be respectful is by researching the function of a piece, so that you’re expanding your knowledge as well as your aesthetic appreciation. It’s fine to be drawn to a piece of art purely because of how it looks, but it’s always a good idea to educate yourself, too.
How do you feel about people who aren’t Native American using Native-inspired artwork in their homes? Do you have any more tips to share on how to respectfully appreciate art that’s part of indigenous cultures? Join the discussion in the comments.