Miley Cyrus Enjoys Dream Catchers, Apparently.

In dream catcher, miley cyrus, miley cyrus tattoo by Adrienne K.17 Comments

Miss Miley Cyrus was recently inked with her fifth tattoo, a dream catcher along her ribcage. It’s supposedly to protect her four siblings, or something like that. Honestly, dream catchers are probably one of the most appropriated and exploited Native images–you see them everywhere. So I’m not supremely bothered by the tattoo, but it is annoying. However, everyone’s favorite Disney starlet recently turned 18, and her 18th birthday was a “bohemian theme.” Apparently, “bohemian”=dream catchers and feathers. Have a look:
Note the “backdrop” of dream catchers and the abundance of feathers. There are a million more pictures at the bakery’s blog, here
Cake close up. The bakery wanted to “incorporate golden sugar feathers, braiding, beading, and turquoise beading”.
Backdrop close up. Plastic pony beads are very authentic, right?
Miley got into the theme as well, wearing feathers hanging from her halter top, as well as feathered earrings. While the bakery was going for “bohemian,” clearly there’s a Native theme going on here. At least Miley didn’t wear a headdress?
Like I mentioned before, dream catchers are one of the most appropriated and commercialized Native images. They’re originally Ojibwe, but have been adopted by tribes across the US and Canada, mostly as items created for sale to tourists and non-Natives. The problem is, in many Ojibwe communities, dream catchers are still a sacred, and their creation involves specific ceremonies and prayers. The plastic commercial keychains sold in rest stops are making a mockery of a sacred object. When people buy the dream catchers because they’re “pretty” or to ward off bad dreams, and aren’t aware of the power and history behind the objects, it dilutes them to a commercial object disconnected from their origins and community.
I’m not saying that dream catchers are off-limits to non-Natives. But if you do choose to buy a dream catcher, as always, buy it from a Native artisan. The Indian Arts and Crafts Act states that artists who are selling Native-style arts must be tribal members, and if they are not, they must identify themselves as such, so ask.
I used to think that dream catchers had lost a lot of power in Native communities due to their over-commercialization and association with new-agey non-Natives, but last summer at a program I’m involved with for Native youth, I changed my mind. A guest speaker passed around a dream catcher (handmade by an Ojibwe elder), and had each of us hold it and think about our hopes and dreams for the future. After we had all held it, he presented it to the director of the program to keep on her wall as a reminder of all the dreams created and realized through her program. If that’s not reclaiming the dream catcher, I don’t know what is. 


  1. Savanah

    She blew it for sure.

    But Miley Cyrus is pretty hill billy at the roots, I mean her dad rocked a mullet most of her life. While I agree it is still disrespectful and harmful to the Native community. Miley probably grew up with a dream catcher in her home – shes just a trashy little white trash dream (no offense destiny cyrus)and the part Cherokee that she is influences her.

  2. Janny

    I think its a cool idea and I’m glad Ms Cyrus celebrated her life with the dream catcher theme. I’ve seen it at weddings and casinos so what’s the difference? Seems like she has an understanding of it and promoted the idea. The cake is awesome too.

  3. Sloane

    People who aren’t native aren’t going to understand the implications and hurt that goes along with this. The cake is stupid, her outfit is stupid and her tattoo is stupid. She doesn’t know what any of it means, because if she did she’d never have done it. It’s not okay, it’s never okay. It’s like me tattooing a naked picture of your grandmother who died of cancer on my breast and then taking her dead skin and putting it on a cake. Yes. It’s that extreme. It doesn’t matter if non-natives think its okay, it’s not their culture and not their place to okay it. Deal with it.

  4. Amethyst

    Not to defend Miss Cyrus, but a lot of people are proud to be part Native, and don’t know how to appropriately express that. I totally understand that it can be offensive at times, but I think that people don’t mean to be disrespectful and are actually trying to honor that heritage in a misguided way. It would help if those of us with not enough paperwork to prove our heritage could really learn more. I for one, don’t know how to find out more about my ancestor’s tribes. I really want to know more and be involved in the culture and don’t know how. I will promise not to get inappropriate tattoos, however.

  5. Jayden Douglas Long

    Sure lots of people want to claim their “Nativeness” and “embrace their heritage”. But what’s different about these people “going Native” is that they do not give a shit about the problems within First Nations communities. Miley is just a white upper-class young adult who wants to “Party in the USA”. Sure she’ll get a tattoo of a dream catcher, but do you see her trying to make any sort of difference for any Native Nations?
    There is a clear line between a trend and caring.
    If Miley wanted to promote the First peoples rights and treaty violations then I would be behind her all the way. The fact is she’s hurting more people than she’s helping.
    By promoting Nativeness as a trend, her fans will be inspired to do the same.
    It’s dysconcious racism.
    “Native” style has been popular for non-Natives for a very long time, but none of these people promoting these trends want to promote equal rights.
    Just sayin…

  6. 8mph-ansible

    I feel Sloane. I wanna burn it wit fire!

    No, she has no real understanding of it. No, it doesn’t matter if she grew up around it. No, it doesn’t matter that its been misappropriated by ” trash” culture. We and our culture are not some damn decoration to ‘enrich’ your life. EVER.

    So bullshit. She and no one like here sure as hell don’t give a flip about us and they sure as hell don’t intend to help allieviate whatever problems our cultures and communities endure. Fuck her. Fuck her fans. And fuck any coddling of her.


  7. Elizabeth

    There is a glaring oversight with respect to education in our country. History books are still perpetuating a “Defeated” “Vanishing race” or still romanticize Natives altogether, despite having been re-written. We are still looking through Fred Harvey’s rose colored lens of the romantic Indian.
    So Miley, Hannah or whatever this perfectly packaged Disney phenom-flavor-of-the-week calls herself these days has picked up on this “trend?” and “Fused” it with Bohemian? without acknowledging the two cultures? yeah! a real role model indeed. Not for her inkwork, but the face of education missing-sh has no idea of why dream catchers are made, who makes them, other than a vanishing race and a commercialized product manufactured (mainly) in China.

  8. Celeste

    as someone who is also “part native” (see amethyst’s comment), i can understand that people might have the urge to “embrace” that part of their blood, or whatever. and solidarity is a good thing.
    that being said, i would be the first to admit that as someone who was raised entirely by white people, who has little experience or knowledge of “native” culture, and who might not even know what specific native group she has blood from, i think it would only be selfish and egotistical to claim that having native blood of some kind justifies cultural appropriation.
    i call bull-shit on that one.

  9. Waterswaves

    This is for Amethyst above. There is a lot of misinformation out there I know but it IS possible to learn about Native American cultures (yes plural, we are not all the same). Many don’t know where to look so I’m going to give a few of my favorite links. (I hope this is Ok with Adrienne, if not then it is ok to delete my comment.)

    This one has a lot of info.

    This one has a lot of native news. There is even a story about the Grammy that was won this year for the Gathering of Nations powwow album. Did you know that the Grammy’s has a Native American music category?

    This is the site for the Gathering of Nations. They even have a free 24/7 online streaming native radio station that plays everything from traditional drum and flute to rock, pop, hip-hop and everything in between.

    This one gives a lot of info about powwows and has some lists by state, though not all are listed.

    I’m disabled and at home a lot so I have time to talk to people. I’m always willing to talk about native issues and share the info I have but be warned if you contact me. The info I have is in direct relation to MY life because basically we learn our culture by living it. There ARE places to learn though and people willing to share knowledge, but people need to be willing to learn.

  10. Jodi Lynn

    You mentioned the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. It doesn’t state simply that makers of certain arts and crafts must be tribal members but must possess at least 50% “blood quantum” (to tie it to a more recent post.

    This act, much like the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, carry a facade with one purpose but serve the ever present purpose; litigating the Indian out of existence.

  11. rayne

    I am a non-native, but I have always felt that I have lived several past lives as a native (since I believe in reincarnation). I’ve always had a fascination and love for the native groups of canada. Lately I have been seriously considering getting a dream catcher tattoo myself, however I do not want to offend any culture with my decision. I know the significance of the dream catcher and have felt its powers. Visions and knowledge visit me through dreams, dreams played a central role in the recent years of my life, revealing parts of me I didn’t know I had. My past lives were also revealed to me through my dreams. So I guess I’m trying to say, would me getting a dreamcatcher tattoo on my arm be innappropriate or offensive?

Leave a Comment