Since my first article came out in Cottage Life, I’ve had a lot of interactions with people who genuinely want to understand appropriation. They’ve seen something or done something that they have questioned, based on what they read. The reality is that when something is new, as the issue of appropriation versus appreciation is, it takes a while to get used to it.
Recently, somebody sent me a note asking about a piece of clothing they’d bought. Once they got it home, they weren’t sure if it was okay for them to wear. Would it show appreciation for the culture, or would it be appropriation? The first thing to ask is where the clothing originated. If, say, you bought a pair of moccasins, and there’s no indication of who made them, that’s a red flag. Remember, part of the criteria for something to be considered appropriation is profit. If somebody gains financially from taking elements from Indigenous cultures, that’s appropriation.
The person who messaged me knew they’d purchased their clothing from an Indigenous creator, so wearing it was perfectly fine. Indigenous artists don’t make clothing or books only for Indigenous people. I write books because I want everyone to read them. This creator makes clothing because they want everyone to wear it. Reading my books or wearing products from an Indigenous creator isn’t appropriation. I think it’s pretty great.
This story was originally published as “If the shoe fits” in the Mar/Apr 2022 issue of Cottage Life.