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  • November 20, 2017, 05:03:44 PM

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Author Topic: Can't say the only thing I really think about your tattoo: KEY UPDATE Post 13  (Read 26463 times)

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DavidH

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To me, the souvenir or trinket point is well said.  I assume that if it is common for members of that group to sell replicas of the item to non-members as a trinket, then it is not offensive for the non-members to buy it.  It's not the only test, but not a bad place to start when thinking about whether or not the item is something that I shouldn't have if I am not part of that group.

#borecore

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Put rather over-simply: This essentially fits the very definition of "appropriation."

Dominant culture inserting itself and overlaying itself on minority culture sacred symbols on one hand is what dominant cultures do; on the other hand, it's still important (to me at least) to be aware of the effect of our actions on people who don't have the kinds of voices the dominant culture does and who might feel that selling it to us is the only way to make ends meet.

Outdoor Girl

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Just because one group of X persuasion thinks it is OK to sell trinkets that are spiritual symbols to people/tourists not of X persuasion, it doesn't mean that all groups of X persuasion think it is OK.
After cleaning out my Dad's house, I have this advice:  If you haven't used it in a year, throw it out!!!!.
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twiggy

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That's an excellent point. I think for me the difference is who is doing the selling and to whom are they aiming to sell?

So ok, yes, a jewelry store who is selling crosses and stars for example, is clearly happy to sell them to anyone and isn't going to ask for some sort of proof of belief before closing the deal. But I think the target customer is assumed (and this may be a mistake on my part) to be people who would find the item meaningful in their own life as opposed to someone just looking for bling. Additionally, this is a non-religious establishment selling them, as opposed to how a church or synagogue or other religious organization might handle the sale of symbols of their beliefs.

The dream catchers I've seen are being sold by Native Americans in tourist shops and roadside stands to Non-Native Americans. Their target customer can by no means be assumed to be other Native Americans who clearly do not shop in these tourist markets.

I agree that just because someone is selling something it doesn't mean that it's ok for anyone to usurp it for their own unintended use. I think it just seems disingenuous (to me) that the very people who are presumably offended by misuse are the ones selling it specifically to those who might misuse it. It would be like a church selling rosary beads with a sign up that said "won't these look cute around your neck!"

I really hope I'm not offending anyone as that is totally not my intent. And I agree that it's not for me to decide. Again, just sort of stating my confusion about a situation which seems to be at cross purposes with itself.

I am a registered, enrolled Hopi. I don't know too much about dream catchers specifically because that's not my people's symbol. But as to the bolded, just because something is made by a NA artist, doesn't mean that it's made by a person of the tribe the symbol originated in. I knew a Navajo man who carved beautiful katsina dolls. Katsinam are Hopi, not Navajo. I've seen artists selling "Man in the Maze" (O'odahm) design jewelry alongside Hopi overlay style, with squash blossoms and Zuni mosaic. The tags on each piece said "made by Native American artist" but the designs came from a variety of sources.
So the comparison in the second bolded, would be more like a Jewish or Muslim person selling the rosary beads because they know it's popular and pretty.

Also, there are degrees of sacred/acceptable. For instance, in my culture, Katsina dolls are carved and sold commercially. They are also given as gifts for children. They represent something sacred, but the dolls themselves aren't sacred. OTOH, there are similar items that are absolutely sacred and it would be an abomination for them to be sold. There was a controversy about this last year that I mentioned in this thread.
In the United States today, there is a pervasive tendency to treat children as adults, and adults as children.  The options of children are thus steadily expanded, while those of adults are progressively constricted.  The result is unruly children and childish adults.  ~Thomas Szasz

lowspark

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Just because one group of X persuasion thinks it is OK to sell trinkets that are spiritual symbols to people/tourists not of X persuasion, it doesn't mean that all groups of X persuasion think it is OK.

Good point. By the same token though, that means that just because some people of X persuasion are offended by something that it is inherently offensive to Group X as a whole.

Which of course can be said of anything which anyone finds offensive. They are not necessarily representative of the entire group which the offense might, well, offend.

Again, for me, it boils down to how ubiquitous those dream catchers are. And the comparison to the head dress which I didn't see being sold at all, much less as plentiful and cheaply as the dream catchers were.

And again, it's clearly not for me to decide and I'm not in any way saying that it is. Just musing on a topic which I find very interesting, and the fact that I've never been aware, before today, that dream catchers had enough significance for their potential misuse to cause offense.
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lowspark

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Quote
just because something is made by a NA artist, doesn't mean that it's made by a person of the tribe the symbol originated in

I admit! that's something I really didn't think about. Good point!

Your post about the dolls made think of another extremely ubiquitous Native American symbol, Kokopelli. Is that figure considered as private and to be used only by the tribe(s) where it originated?

And that leads me to wonder if really, every Native American symbol is off limits to non-Native Americans. And that thought leads me back to... it's really impossible to police. I think it's fine to try to educate people and make them aware of what these symbols mean and why they shouldn't be taken lightly, but I also think that unfortunately, there's about as much chance of that actually working as there is of [some] people who aren't Christian buying a cross as a fashion accessory.
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gellchom

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Well, but I mean, there's a continuum.  I think the point is not that things are "off limits," but that there is a need for sensitivity and respect in how we treat other people's cultural objects, symbols, texts, and so forth. 

At one end: You can't just say that you think something is pretty or means XYZ or ABC or nothing at all to you personally and that ends the discussion and you can use it in any way you want without being disrespectful.

At the other end: a use like wearing your mother's cross around your neck even if you aren't any longer a practicing Christian is fine, in my opinion, anyway.

And of course the middle area is the most interesting.  I suspect that there can't be some kind of all-purpose benchmark, such as whether things are sold as souvenirs.  I think in fact that often it won't be the nature of the object or symbol itself as much as the way someone is going to use it that makes the difference.

So I think we need to rely on being sensitive to the existence of the issue, doing a little research sometimes, not relying on knowing one or more people "who weren't offended at all," never deciding that others "have no right to be offended," and basically just proceeding with respect for other people's cultures.  That way, even when we err, our at least our good intentions will be clear.

blue2000

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Well, but I mean, there's a continuum.  I think the point is not that things are "off limits," but that there is a need for sensitivity and respect in how we treat other people's cultural objects, symbols, texts, and so forth. 

At one end: You can't just say that you think something is pretty or means XYZ or ABC or nothing at all to you personally and that ends the discussion and you can use it in any way you want without being disrespectful.

At the other end: a use like wearing your mother's cross around your neck even if you aren't any longer a practicing Christian is fine, in my opinion, anyway.

And of course the middle area is the most interesting.  I suspect that there can't be some kind of all-purpose benchmark, such as whether things are sold as souvenirs.  I think in fact that often it won't be the nature of the object or symbol itself as much as the way someone is going to use it that makes the difference.

So I think we need to rely on being sensitive to the existence of the issue, doing a little research sometimes, not relying on knowing one or more people "who weren't offended at all," never deciding that others "have no right to be offended," and basically just proceeding with respect for other people's cultures.  That way, even when we err, our at least our good intentions will be clear.

I think there is also a continuum in how religious and sensitive these objects are. I'm not an expert on Native American symbols, but in thinking of my own culture and religion, there are items that are very decorative and I've seen them used by non-religious people. I wouldn't be offended unless it was a stripper (ew!!). If you got it as a tattoo, I would seriously wonder why, because that's a little weird. But hey, your choice.

On the other end of the continuum are the "This is not a toy, DO NOT USE" items. Even people in the church would not decorate with these things. If I saw a tattoo or this item in someone's china cabinet, my respect for them would be dropping into the basement. Doesn't matter why they have it, it isn't a decoration. :(

In short, I have to agree with you gellchom. If someone wants to use a cultural or religious item, proceeding with respect and good intentions is the best idea.
You are only young once. After that you have to think up some other excuse.

Amanita

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In my town, there's a store that imports all kinds of interesting things from India and parts of Southeast Asia. They sell curtains made of sari fabric, and whole saris on occasion. I've bought a couple of those. One day I noticed they were selling something else- a gorgeous necklace that appeared to be made of large wooden beads with ornate silver bead caps.
They looked something like this:
https://store.karunamayi.org/xcart/image.php?type=P&id=16385

Next to them was a little card identifying them as Krishna beads, and explaining their use. It also mentioned the obligations of the wearer, in order to show the beads proper respect. Among other things, following a vegan diet was a must.

I decided not to buy that necklace- it's pretty much like a rosary, with specific religious obligations.
I don't feel bad for owning a couple of sari- they're everyday clothing for many people, and as long as I don't use them for something disrespectful (like dressing as an "Indian person" for Halloween, I don't think it's inherently wrong to own or wear them. But those Krishna beads would have been a whole other story.

I think that overall, that's a useful guideline to follow- if something amounts to regular clothing in its culture of origin (Or dressy clothing in the case of formal kimono or more ornate sari), it's usually okay. But if it's a religious practice item, or something which even a member of that culture would have to earn (like Native headdresses/war bonnets), then best to leave it be.

purple

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I think it's a bit unreasonable to expect the whole wide world to respect this symbol or item or whatever just because it's special to some certain group.

I mean, good on you (general) if that's what you want to do, but I think you'll (general) be fighting an uphill battle if you expect everybody to feel the same.

lady_disdain

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I think there is also a continuum in how religious and sensitive these objects are. I'm not an expert on Native American symbols, but in thinking of my own culture and religion, there are items that are very decorative and I've seen them used by non-religious people. I wouldn't be offended unless it was a stripper (ew!!). If you got it as a tattoo, I would seriously wonder why, because that's a little weird. But hey, your choice.

Do you mean a stripper in general or a stripper using it as part of their show? Because strippers are people, too, and aren't dirty, contaminated or lower because of their profession.

#borecore

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I think it's a bit unreasonable to expect the whole wide world to respect this symbol or item or whatever just because it's special to some certain group.

I mean, good on you (general) if that's what you want to do, but I think you'll (general) be fighting an uphill battle if you expect everybody to feel the same.

I'm not sure what you think a "battle" like this would look like, but I am pretty sure it would just be polite awareness-raising, as that's how the vast majority of cultural change happens. How do you think people stopped saying racial slurs, or others became aware of the sensitivity around wearing headdresses or displaying eagle feathers?
I guess I don't go in for ignoring an issue because it's hard to change, or commonplace.

blue2000

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I think there is also a continuum in how religious and sensitive these objects are. I'm not an expert on Native American symbols, but in thinking of my own culture and religion, there are items that are very decorative and I've seen them used by non-religious people. I wouldn't be offended unless it was a stripper (ew!!). If you got it as a tattoo, I would seriously wonder why, because that's a little weird. But hey, your choice.

Do you mean a stripper in general or a stripper using it as part of their show? Because strippers are people, too, and aren't dirty, contaminated or lower because of their profession.

In a show. If they had it sitting in the living room like any other decoration, their job wouldn't make a difference.
You are only young once. After that you have to think up some other excuse.

VorFemme

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About fifty years ago, I was with my parents at a convention where a number of American missionaries were.  I saw an older woman with a leather belt with a tail, a rattle, and a leather pouch on it and was curious - we got the National Geographic and I'd seen a very similar belt on a "medicine man" in one of the photos from an issue about Africa (the position had duties as healer and some spiritual duties as healing involved spiritual intercession with ancestral and other spirits asking for help with the healing).

The missionary was a doctor and had been presented the belt by a former medicine man that she had healed and ended up converting to Christianity.  He had presented it to her as she had clearly demonstrated HER understanding of the links between spiritual and physical healing - and would no longer be needing it as HE was no longer going to be using it (I have no idea what he went on to do - I have no names to research).

But she wore it with respect as the sign of a healer and the gift of another healer in thanks for healing him - she did NOT try striking funny poses or belittle the object that had taken the original owner years of training to earn the right to wear.

It might not have been "sacred" to her for religious reasons - but it was something given to her as a mark of respect and it would be disrespecting herself as well as the giver if she made jokes about it.
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LadyL

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I think there is a significant difference between buying a dream catcher, rosary, or crucifix as a souvenir or trinket, and having those images permanently tattoo'd on your body. I think it is questionable but not hugely offensive for a non-Christian to wear a cross, but I would find it pretty puzzling bordering on offensive for a non-Christian to get a cross tattoo "because it looks cool" or some such. 


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