25 April 2007

Are Play Teepees Culturally Sensitive?


For my daughter's second birthday, her grandmother got her a Magic Cabin Teepee
icon. This canvas teepee was truly beautiful and expensive. It took me several attempts to properly assemble the teepee, but once it was up, the teepee provided a great enclosed outdoor space to play in and looked great in the yard. The canvas is secured to the ground with tent stakes (not provided). During high winds, the tent stake straps tore on our teepee, and it came crashing down breaking a pole. I repaired the pole as best as possible, as well as the tent stake canvas loops. In the hot California sun, the canvas deteriorated quickly. We stored the teepee under our shop during the wet, winter months. The following summer, the canvas was stained and very weak. The teepee did not survive its second summer, as more poles broke and the canvas tore in many places. I was sorely disappointed, as I truly love the teepee, and it was very expensive. I don't know if our climate or our storage of the teepee contributed to its destruction, but we can no longer read stories and play in this unique structure.

A Hopi friend of mine feels it is inappropriate for children to play in teepees, as they promote stereotypes about Native Americans. Obviously, not all tribes live/lived in teepees; however, they have become a symbolic representation of all native people in America. For my daughter, we never associated the teepee with any culture and simply enjoyed the unique structure for play. We did not pretend to be cowboys or Indians. If she would have been older, I would have been sure to teach her about all of the various housing structures utilized by tribes across this vast continent.

Don't forget to read Green Family Values this week!

"Play is the highest form of research." -Albert Einstein