Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

How Dreamcatchers Went from Sacred Tradition to the Malls of America


This is part four of a five-part series on sleep and dreams, sponsored by Oso mattresses. Read the others here, here, and here.

The dreamcatcher, that classic children’s craft, hangs from rearview mirrors and earlobes across the United States. The story that’s commonly associated with the round hoop strung like a spider’s web and festooned with feathers can be conveyed quickly—“You hang it above your bed to catch bad dreams”—and the object holds a wide appeal to sentimental Americans, standing in as part of an apparently usable American Indian past.

I was given a dream catcher as a child, when I had persistent night terrors. Like the Guatemalan worry dolls that showed up in my stocking one year, the small token had the taste of authenticity that soothed an anxious child; if people had been using this method for years, I thought to myself, it must work. It was later that I began to see the object move to a different, more kitschy realm: think airbrushed t-shirts, sold ironically at Urban Outfitters or sincerely at the state fair.


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