Native American Culture: Appreciation vs Appropriation

Throughout the last few years, Native American culture has been put on the pedestal for its unique culture. It has been embraced from all over but also, misrepresented. When it comes to using certain items of Native American culture, one must always be aware. There is a fine line between cultural appreciation and appropriation.

What is Cultural Appropriation?

When it comes to cultural appropriation, imperialism, capitalism, oppression and assimilation is all compressed into one.

The appropriation is profitable which raises many red flags when it comes to embracing a culture. The exotic, edgy and different traditions turn into desires which make it sellable. In of being understanding a culture and learning about the depths of its rituals, items are sold as a “natural resource”.

Since it becomes a natural resource to the dominant culture, it becomes assimilated. It no longer is seen as a distinct culture but a part of the norm. This is dangerous because it strips away its uniqueness and categorizes it of a culture it was never a part of.

The Harm on Cultural Appropriation

The reason cultural appropriation is harmful because it goes back to the roots of a racial systematic structure. It is based on racism, genocide, and oppression.

This concept takes marginalized cultures and treats them as if they easy to take. This goes same treatment goes back many centuries when colonizers took native people, people of color and land as if they were nothing.

Native American Cultural Appreciation

As mentioned earlier, Native American culture has been used frequently throughout the years. It has been seen that headdresses have been worn to festivals, indigenous wardrobe has been used as costumes and even a baseball franchise has caused controversy for being called the Cleveland Redskins.

How to Honor Native American Culture

1. Support Native American Artists

What better way to support and Native American culture by supporting the people. If you want authentic Native American culture, acknowledge the people who carry Native American roots.

These are the people who have learned the craft of the indigenous people through generations.

2. Learn About Native American Movements

Native American people have been used and abused for many years. Their history is painful, whether it wants to be acknowledged or not but that is the truth.

Until this day, the Native American community suffers from many injustices whether it’s revitalizing their native language, fighting against women violence, teaching spirituality and much more.

Doing research on various movements, looking into the mission and seeing the outcome is one of the best options you can do.

3. Support Non-Native Companies and Organizations that Honor the Culture Correctly

There are also many companies and organizations that actively embrace the Native American community correctly. While there are many celebrities and companies abusing the culture, there are many who do it with much respect and knowledge.

Fang Jewelry is one jewelry company that does research on the significance of each symbol used on the jewelry to see how it can be incorporated into its collection.

Similar to doing research on what organization to help, you must also do your research on these companies as well. Figure out their mission, what they stand for and how they go about their work.

Deer Leather Necklace

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The Legend of the Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatchers are often seen on walls, trees, porches and even souvenir shops. But what is the significance of it where it is often seen in many places? These items are also transformed into jewelry at Fang Jewelry. The origin and legend behind the dreamcatcher are deep and important within the Native American community.

Dream Catcher Necklace

History of the Dreamcatcher

The dreamcatcher is obviously associated with Native Americans but there is conflict on where it originated from. Between the Ojibwa Chippewa and Lakota tribe, each has their own legend. Although, it is mainly believed that it originated from the Ojibwa Chippewa tribe.

Ojibwa Chippewa Legend

To understand where dreamcatchers came about, one must understand the translation of it. The word for the item is asabikeshiinh, which means “spider”. It is evident as to why it translates to spider since the dreamcatcher is woven into a web, making it look like a spider web.

The Ojibwa people found spiders to be a symbol of protection and comfort. There is a story amongst their community of a mystical and maternal “Spider Woman” who was a spiritual protector of the tribe. This protection was strongest with children and babies.

As the tribe continues to grow and go different directions, it was hard for the Spider Woman to protect all so the first dreamcatcher was made. With that, mothers would recreate the maternal remembrance to symbolize the mystical protection over families and children all over.

Dreamcatcher Purpose

Traditionally, these items were used as a totem to protect those who sleep from bad dreams and nightmares. It was sometimes known as “Sacred Hoops”.

Dreams were believed to fill the night air, both the good and bad. It was hung above the bed where the morning sunlight was able to hit it.

With dreamcatchers, it had the ability to capture all types of dreams in its web – not just bad ones. The good dreams passed through the spaces of the web and slide down the feather as it comforted the sleeper below it. On the other hand, bad dreams were caught in the protective net and destroyed. The morning sunlight then burned it up after.

 

 

Turquoise in Navajo Culture

The turquoise gemstone holds a special significance in Native American culture but especially within the Navajo tribe. Turquoise, or doo tl’izh ii, is considered as the “stone of life”. It is popular amongst the Navajo community because of its jewelry but it does have a long history. Up until this day, the gemstone is valued for its scarcity, beauty and also, its historical significance.

Silver Feather Brooch

Turquoise and Navajo Culture

The gemstone was seen to bring good fortune. It would be stored in baskets and hung up from ceilings to keep away any evil. Additionally, the Navajo people would put the gemstone around the outside of their homes for that reason.

The belief of its good fortune made it common for people to carry it with them, like warrior and hunters. Eventually, its day-to-day usage turned the gemstone into jewelry to keep its energy around people.

Rituals and Ceremonies

With it’s good energy, it was often used in rituals and ceremonies. There’s a Native American legend that says turquoise was made from the tears of people. When the skies would open up and rain after a long drought, the tears of people would go into the Earth to make the gemstone.

Aside from that, the gemstone was the center of many spiritual observances. One piece was often put into a river after saying a prayer to the god of rain, Neinilii. Often times, the gemstone was connected to rain where people would use sticks with turquoise attached to find water.

Turquoise Bracelet

Homage to Navajo Jewelry

Due to the scarcity of this gemstone’s jewelry, it’s only right to invest in authentic Navajo jewelry. To understand its cultural context will give you a better understanding as to why you should invest only in authenticity.

Supporting authentic Navajo turquoise jewelry is to know the history and craft.

The Power of the Sun

The sun has been symbolically used throughout history in different regions and cultures. Additionally, it has been recognized as a cosmic power which is why it is seen in many artifacts and writings. Within Native American culture, it was significant in all the tribes. Here’s why it was of great importance.

Silver Sun Pendant

The Sun’s Power

It is well known that Native Americans were, and still are, spiritual people. The energy of items and nature play an important role in how their traditions were built and passed on.

The reason it was an essence in their everyday life was that it was one of the natural phenomena that govern life. Since it is the provider of heat and light, it facilitates the growth of plants for food. Hence, why it is seen as the governor of life.

Although the sun played a pivotal role in Native American tribes, the significance was different within each community.

Turquoise Pendant Gemstone

Symbolism of the Sun

Below are the various meanings and significance of it with each Native American tribe.

The Seven Rays

This sun is the most common amongst Native American tribes. In the design, it has seven rays which represent the seven energy centers within humans. This symbol portrays a peace-loving person. Also, it represents any entity evolved enough to have an internal light that it radiates the outside world.

The Navajo Sun

This type of sun is seen with feather arrangements which are used to record war stories and heroic events. Also, it is related directly to the sun where it connects to creation.

The Hopi Sun

The symbol represented the heart of cosmos and handles passion, growth, and vitality. Furthermore, it is a symbol of creative and natural energy.

It was said that the sun was a supreme god sent from the Hopi’s dependence for the growth of corn and other crops.

 

 

The Origin of the Squash Blossom

The squash blossom has played an important role in indigenous culture, especially within the Navajo community. Ironically enough, the symbol was something that did not originate from Native American but Spanish conquistador. Whether you own jewelry with the squash blossom or not, understanding this symbol is to understand the Native American culture.

Naja Pendant

 The Squash Blossom Origin

The origins of the symbol started between the late 1500s and early 1600s. The symbol was seen as an iron ornament on horse bridles. Eventually, as the indigenous people were captures, the symbol became an ornament within their community.

The Moorish Influence

Although the symbol was first seen on Spanish conquistadors, the Moorish influence played a great role. The squash blossom reflected the Moorish conquest of Spain.

The reason the Spaniards were seen with the symbol on their horse bridles had to do with the same ideology of the Moors.

When the Moors conquered Spain, the use of an inverted crescent would protect them and their horses from ‘the evil eye’. Therefore, when the Spanish went to the Americas, they used the same symbol to protect themselves.

Silver Naja Pendant

The Squash Blossom Significance

Throughout the generations, the pendant was known as Naja or najache. It became associated with different ceremonies, especially agricultural. Eventually, it became a symbol of crop fertility.

Also, the squash blossom is a reminder of the closeness between the Navajo and Pueblo communities.

Beads that Spread Out

In the Navajo language, “the squash blossom”  is read as yo ne maze disya gi, which translates to “beads that spread out”. Strange enough, the translation has nothing to do with a squash and here’s no trace as to how the translation came to be.

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How to Care and Clean Deerskin Leather

Throughout history, deerskin leather has been popular amongst Native Americans for everyday materials. At Fang Jewelry, we have pieces highlighted with it. This gives our jewelry an indigenous essence that’s unique. When buying our jewelry, we want to make sure your item stays in pristine condition. Therefore, here’s how you keep your the leather in perfect shape.

Silver Feather Necklace

Deerskin Leather

Deerskin leather is commonly used in Native American communities. It is used to make various items like moccasins and gloves. Also, it has also been one of the most important sources of trade with Europeans.

The reason it was so important and common was due to its material. It is lucrative material and also very comfortable in comparison to other leathers. Its flexibility makes it easy to wear and also has a breathability to it. Therefore, you won’t feel overheated in the summer.

Additionally, it has a soft and delicate texture but doesn’t let that fool you. It is easy to manage and care for.

Caring for Deerskin Leather

Although the leather is soft, it is simple to care for and requires little conditioning. If over cleaned, you might actually ruin the material. It will become darker and start to gain a gooey surface which is something you don’t want to do.

Of course, it is still important to give the leather a conditioning about twice a year. And cleaning will need to be done if your piece gets blemishes you want to remove.

Silver Eagle Necklace

Cleaning Deerskin Leather

There are various ways to clean you deerskin leather. Below you will find how to remove stains, scratches and what happens if the leather gets too wet.

Removing Stains

To remove stains, use a damp cloth and rub it against the hide. If the stain still remains, you would want to use a mild soap and water mixed in a bowl. After, collect the suds on the soft cloth but try not to get the cloth too wet. In thin layers, gently wipe over the surface.

After, blot up an extra moisture with a clean cloth that might have remained and leave the leather in a cool place to dry. Be sure to keep the leather away from any direct sunlight or heat.

Handling Scratches

Scratches and scruffs are something people don’t worry too much about. This gives the leather a unique and outdoor look but if you insist on removing them, here’s what to do.

Emulsified lanolin is ideal to use. You would want to apply the lanolin on a cloth and apply it evenly on the coat. The leather will get darker but when placed to dry, out of direct sunlight or heat, it will go back to its regular color.

Excessively Wet

The leather can handle getting wet but if too much water is absorbed, it’s not the best. You will want to dry the leather as soon as possible. Using a clean and dry cloth, you should absorb an excessive moisture and apply leather conditioner.

Make sure even, thin layers are applied on the surface evenly. Then for about fifteen minutes, you can leave it to dry.

When figuring out which leather conditioner to use, it’s best to try out various ones before it gets wet. Therefore, when you buy the leather, be on the lookout for leather conditioners.

Who is Kokopelli?

Our collections have various symbols and icons that are important in Native American culture. One of these icons is Kokopelli, who is commonly seen in the Southwest of the United States. But who was Kokopelli and why is he so icon? Here we have your answers for you.

Kokopelli Pendant

Who is Kokopelli?

Kokopelli is a fertility deity and within the Hopi people, he carries unborn children on his back. Therefore, many little girls have become afraid of him.

Additionally, he is the officiate over animal reproduction which is why he is frequently represented with animals from deer to various insects.

He is depicted as a humpbacked flute player where his flute plays an important role in his other representations.

Within the agriculture aspect, he uses his flute to chase away winter and bring in spring. Also, the Zuni and many other tribes associate him with the rain.

Sometimes, he is seen with another flutist, Paiyatamu, in corn-grinding ceremonies. Because of that, he is also known to have seeds carried on his back.

Hopi Ring

Kokopelli and the Southwest

Kokopelli is associated greatly with the Southwest region of the United States. Over 3,000 years ago, there were petroglyphs found that were carved. Even though the origins of this mythical icon is unknown, he has been an embodiment of the Southwest and is seen all over in the area.

Kokopelli’s Various Origins Ideologies

There have been many speculations of who Kokopelli was and what he stood for. The first image of him was dated back between 750 and 850 AD. This led to some idea that his figure was a representation of ancient Aztecs known as pochteca.

These ancient Aztecs had various items and goods carried on their backs which could have constructed the figure of Kokopelli.

Furthermore, he was seen as a trader. He used his flute to portray himself as friendly while reaching the settlement. But to others, he wasn’t a trader but someone who informed.

Due to Kokopelli’s ancient findings of painting and carvings, it’s difficult to put a finger on where his image came from.

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Finding Native American Culture in the United States

As buyers of Native American jewelry, it is best to have some knowledge of what kind of pieces you are representing. Whether it’s understanding symbols, like the Thunderbird or feathers.

There are many ways to conserve their culture through powwows, oral tradition, artifacts and the greatest one, museums. Here are some of the best museums to indulge in Native American culture.

Top Native American Museums

East Coast

1. George Gustav Heye Center  (New York)

As a part of the National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Here Center highlights collections that will astonish anyone. Also, it includes 10 headdresses from various Native tribes and the oldest known duck decoys from Lovelock Cave, Nevada.

2. National Museum of the American Indian (D.C.)

The National Museum of the American Indian portrays cultures from North, Central and South America. Therefore, you will be learning more than just those in the United States with a total of more than 800,000 items.

3. Queens County Farm Museum

A small farm on the outskirts of the busy city, you can learn about the Native American culture. Additionally, the farm is known for hosting the Thunderbird American Indian Mid-Summer Powwow, which is the largest and oldest.

West Coast

1. Denver Art Museum (Denver, Colorado)

The Denver Art Museum is one of the largest American Indian art collections in the world. It was the first United States art museum to start gathering Native American work from different tribes and groups from various regions.

It has permanent collections that show ancient ceramics to Arapaho beaded garments.

2. Millicent Rogers Museum (Taos, New Mexico)

The Millicent Rogers Museum focuses on collections of Southwest Native American and Hispanic artwork.  It carries an important collection of Native American art, jewelry, like the Zuni “Tab Necklace”, and pottery.

Located in Taos, New Mexico, the area is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Landmark.

3. Heard Museum (Phoenix, Arizona)

The Heard Museum opened in 1929 as a small museum but with its international recognition, it has grown throughout the years. It consists of 11 galleries of traditional and contemporary Native American artwork and changes its exhibits six to eight times per year.

Also, the museum is one of Phoenix’s earliest and best cultural attraction to learn about Native American culture.

 

Source: “Looking for Native American culture in the U.S.? Here’s where to go” by Dana Joseph 

Handmade Jewelry: The Arrow Meaning

Native American’s main form of communication was through history, thoughts, ideas, and dreams. With that, symbols and signs, like arrows, played a major role in how they were expressed. The arrow meaning amongst Native American culture vary from tribe to tribe and to understand the meaning, we have it here for you.

Arrow Ring

The Arrow – A Necessity

The arrow was an important necessity within the Native American lifestyle because it served as a survival tool. It was a simple tool but allowed people to hunt and gather food, clothes, and tools. Also, it served as a weapon during battles.

Arrow Usage

As mentioned earlier, it was a tool that helped the Native Americans survive. Arrows can be seen on various indigenous objects like teepees, clothes, instruments and also done on tattoos.

Silver Arrow Pendant

Arrow Meaning

In general, the arrow symbolizes various human fundamental values. It represents harmony, conflict, progress and many other things that are relatable.

Arrows are a popular symbol within Native American culture but it symbolizes different things depending on the design.

Single Arrow Point to the Right

A single arrow means the general significance which is protection and defense. It can also mean direction, force, and movement. When it is pointed to the left, it is warding off evil and pointing down or broken, is a signal of peace.

Crossed Arrows

When two arrows are crossed, it represents the friendship between people.

Bundle of Five Arrows

Each arrow in the bundle represented one of the five founding tribes in the Iroquois League. The bundle of arrows shows strength and unity. A single arrow is easy to break but trying to break five is much more powerful.

Feather Arrows

Feathers placed on the shaft of an arrow symbolizes unity, triumph, and independence.

Two Arrows Pointing Opposite Directions

These arrows symbolized war or conflict.

 

History of Native American Jewelry

Here at Fang Jewelry, we dedicate our collections to Native American culture specifically the Navajo Tribe.  Since Native American jewelry has become common in this generation, one should be educated on how Native American jewelry began. So when you’re wearing this type of jewelry at festivals, you know the history of it.

History on Native American Jewelry

Throughout history, people from all over the world have been making jewelry and adornments and Native Americans were no different. The majority of this jewelry is rooted back to the southwest of the United States.

Before silver, the majority of Native American jewelry was made of yarn, leather, and sinew. These materials were woven into patterns to create necklaces, bracelets, and clothing. Also, the unique and appealing item of nature were used.

In the late 1800s, that is when Native Americans began making jewelry with silver. This occurred when they encountered the Spaniards where they exchanged jewelry, ornaments for horses and other trinkets.

Usage of Gold

The usage of gold traces back to Aztec times within the natives of Mexico and Central America, it’s believed that the indigenous communities in the southwest used this metal as well.

It could be that the Native American knew how to use metals before the Spaniards arrived.

Usage of Turquoise

Each tribe was unique from one another but one common thing was the usage of beaded turquoise jewelry.

Turquoise and shell were paired with feathers and hung everywhere. The jewelry was traced over 2,3oo years ago in Arizona during the Hohokam era.

The reason turquoise was used so much was because of the power the stone had and all the legends that came with it. The Pima thought the stone brought good fortune and can overcome illnesses. In Hopi legend, the stone held back floods. The Apache believed it could make a gun or arrow shoot straight if the stone was on it. And the Navajo tribe considered it to bring good fortune and would appease the Wind Spirit.