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Should Native American Art Be Emulated in the Classroom?

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Caitlin Maybin, a University of South Carolina undergraduate student of the North American Indian Cultures class, created this video, which was posted this May 5 on YouTube. The video explores the ethics behind teaching Native American arts and crafts in American classrooms. She uses the Hopi katsina doll as an example.

A katsina doll is "a physical representation of one of the Hopi's katsinas, the Hopi spiritual messengers—their link between the mortal and the spiritual domains," Maybin narrates in the video. The dolls are highly sought after and imitation abound, she points out.

"Many katsina dolls on the market are made overseas or in factories instead of being produced by legitimate Hopi artisans," she says.

Her mother, who was also her elementary art teacher, taught a katsina doll lesson to introduce the Hopi culture. Each student was given a toilet paper tube, scraps of construction paper, beads, yarn and a marker.

"It was a fun project at the time, but looking back on it over a decade later, I wonder if such an emulation is a compliment or an insult," she wonders. "Is it degrading to have an art based on a culture's spirituality be mimicked by using toilet paper tubes or egg cartons as basis of that art."

She wonders how these emulations affect Native cultures.