Hi! I’m a biracial child (African American & Irish) that was inspired by a past teacher to learn about fancy shawl dancers. I’m an aspiring artist as well, I love drawing the shawls that I’ve seen in past powwows. Is that okay for me to do being non-native?

I’m glad you asked this question,

Auntie and Uncle asked me as a Diné artist to respond to your question.

Please continue to take these precautions and ask these questions, as an artist interested in another culture’s traditional art work. Good to hear that you have respect for other Native cultures, and as a Native artist there are several things to be aware of.

For some tribes, there are traditional and spiritual restrictions for people outside of their tribe to take on art forms that took a life time to learn or even to be “initiated” to be able to practice or make specific works of art. And in some circumstances some tribes believe doing this without permission will affect the person in the future. So knowing that, it would not be very respectful to somewhat “jump in” and pick it up without having the history or credentials to create such work.

I would encourage you go dig more into Pow Wow culture. If you have a friend, or can find an elder, or a place you can go to so you can have those conversations, that would be ideal.

I hope this was helpful, good luck, and continue to be creative. 

Cousin Corey

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