Are Dream Catchers Bad?

are dream catchers bad

Dream catchers have been a popular symbol of Native American culture for centuries. They are often adorned with feathers, beads and other decorations and are believed to protect the sleeper from bad dreams while allowing good dreams to pass through. However, many people believe that dream catchers are nothing more than a commercialized novelty item or even an appropriation of Native American culture.

The Origins of Dream Catchers

Dream catchers originated among the Ojibwe and other tribes in what is now the United States and Canada. They were traditionally made by hand using natural materials like willow hoops, sinew, and feathers. Each element had a specific meaning and purpose. The dream catcher was believed to protect its wearer or occupant of the space from bad dreams while allowing good dreams to pass through.

Over time, these traditional dream catchers evolved into more complex designs that incorporated various beads, shells, and other materials. However, as these items became less accessible, many people turned to mass-produced versions made with synthetic fibers and plastic components. While these modern dream catchers may still serve as a symbol of protection against bad dreams, some argue that they have lost much of their original meaning and cultural significance.

Commercialization and Cultural Appropriation

One of the main criticisms levied against modern dream catchers is that they are nothing more than a commercialized novelty item. With mass-produced versions available in many stores, many people view these items as just another trendy accessory rather than a sacred object with cultural significance.

Furthermore, some argue that the sale and use of dream catchers by non-Native Americans constitutes cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation occurs when one culture takes elements from another without understanding or respecting their meaning or origin. In this case, many believe that non-Native Americans are using dream catchers as a decorative item without recognizing their true cultural significance.

The Impact on Native American Communities

The commercialization and appropriation of dream catchers can have negative consequences for Native American communities. By reducing the original meaning and purpose of these items, they may lose their traditional importance within indigenous cultures. Additionally, the sale of mass-produced dream catchers contributes to the exploitation of Native American artisans who struggle to make a living while preserving their crafts’ authenticity.

Moreover, when non-Native Americans wear or display dream catchers without understanding their cultural significance, it can perpetuate stereotypes and misconceptions about Native American culture. This can lead to further marginalization and misunderstanding within our society.

Alternatives to Dream Catchers

If you wish to support Native American cultures while avoiding potential cultural appropriation issues, there are several alternatives to consider:

  1. Purchase dream catchers directly from Native American artisans or local stores that source their products ethically and respectfully. This supports the artists who create these items and helps preserve their cultural heritage.
  2. Learn about the history and meaning behind dream catchers before incorporating them into your home or wardrobe. This will help you better appreciate the significance of these objects and avoid perpetuating misconceptions.
  3. Instead of using a traditional dream catcher, consider exploring other forms of Native American artistry such as pottery, basket weaving, or beadwork. These crafts also hold cultural importance within indigenous communities and can provide an opportunity to learn more about their histories and traditions.


While dream catchers may hold a special place in many people’s hearts due to their aesthetic appeal and supposed protective properties, it is essential to consider the potential negative impacts of commercialization and cultural appropriation. By supporting indigenous artists, educating ourselves about the true meaning behind these items, and seeking out alternative forms of Native American artistry, we can better honor and preserve the rich cultural heritage of indigenous peoples around the world.

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