I want to use a tipi for a display/booth for my business (selling nuts) at events/festivals. Other than the structure itself, there would be no Native American symbols associated. Would this be offensive to the Native American culture?
This is a great question and I appreciate you asking it. It shows that you respect and appreciate Native culture.
Each person comes with their own experiences that shape the way they see and respond to the world. You’ll likely get a mix of reactions from folks, especially depending on your location.
Being from the Southwest (Zuni Pueblo, NM), I often saw Native designs displayed in various ways by Native and non-Native people.
As we move forward as a society, we are starting conversations with great questions like the ones you’re asking. What was once okay, or seen as normal can shift as we start to learn more about ourselves and other cultures. What was accepted by our parents and elders may no longer be acceptable to the younger generations as we move further away from our colonial past. This is a good thing.
Some things to consider are what you are comfortable with. If you’re not using Native American’s religious, cultural traditions, fashion, symbols, language, and music then you may be okay. I like to ask others whether they’re using someone else’s culture to their advantage or gain. If so, you may want to take a step back and consider your next move.
You may want to prepare yourself to answer questions you may get from any Indigenous person seeing your both. Folks may be curious about your background and knowledge of the tipi.
From an architectural and design standpoint the tipi is a beautiful structure. It’s easy to see folks draw to it. For it to appreciated and used appropriately, is to respect it.
Thanks for writing in.