White understanding or rather allowance of Native American art seems trapped in cultural appropriation.  The love of tribal art I think is part stems from a certain familiarity with it.  Or at least a white interpretation of it.  Shopping for clothes or decor – especially in summer- it is impossible to not come across ‘tribal print’.  So not only has white culture pigeon holed authentic Native American art to only encompass tribal art, but then we has stolen some of the basic pattern and ideas to be reproduced for mass consumption.

Reading this article did make me consider how I could not think of one work of art by a Native American that was not an artifact that once had a ceremonial use.  As far as my recollection serves, the section dedicated to Native people’s art at the Art Institute of Chicago is exclusively ceremonial dress, jugs, bowls, etc.  This is not to say that these cultural artifacts are not beautiful and not art, but as this article suggestion, the Art Institute is missing a whole range of more modern Native American art. This make me genuinely sad because of this created notion that tribal is the only authentic Native American art, everyone is missing out of this rich cultural diversity.  Not only this, but we continue the persecution and silencing of Native Americans.  Perhaps in the case of art we are not trying to force them off their land (although we still do that in modern times too), however we as a white culture continue to marginalize their culture, by restricting them to only one sort of accepted art.

Katelyn Kiner – Hope College – 2017


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