Should Native American Art Be Emulated in the Classroom?

ICTMN Staff
5/16/11

Caitlin Maybin, a University of South Carolina undergraduate student of the North American Indian Cultures class, created this video, which was posted this May 5 on YouTube. The video explores the ethics behind teaching Native American arts and crafts in American classrooms. She uses the Hopi katsina doll as an example.

A katsina doll is "a physical representation of one of the Hopi's katsinas, the Hopi spiritual messengers—their link between the mortal and the spiritual domains," Maybin narrates in the video. The dolls are highly sought after and imitation abound, she points out.

"Many katsina dolls on the market are made overseas or in factories instead of being produced by legitimate Hopi artisans," she says.

Her mother, who was also her elementary art teacher, taught a katsina doll lesson to introduce the Hopi culture. Each student was given a toilet paper tube, scraps of construction paper, beads, yarn and a marker.

"It was a fun project at the time, but looking back on it over a decade later, I wonder if such an emulation is a compliment or an insult," she wonders. "Is it degrading to have an art based on a culture's spirituality be mimicked by using toilet paper tubes or egg cartons as basis of that art."

She wonders how these emulations affect Native cultures.

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debreese's picture
debreese
Submitted by debreese on
As I listened to this, several things stood out. One, I think they are reading from a not-Hopi source. I doubt Hopi people would call their religious ways "lore." Two, the student cites the Hopi Nation in the bibliography at the end, but does not reference or read from it in the video. Those pages have the answers to the questions she poses. Perhaps she is being rhetorical in her wondering at the end, but the answer is not as obvious to everyone as it might be to her or anyone who has thought about this sort of sacrilege.

hazel's picture
hazel
Submitted by hazel on
There's another issue. Kachina dolls, tipis, longhouses, masks, etc, etc... Children are frequently assigned these sorts of school projects. My question is, when children make things out of toilet paper tubes, oaktag, construction paper, popsicle sticks, egg cartons, etc, how on earth is this supposed to help them learn anything at all about Native Americans???
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