§ Dream Catchers
Dream catcher kits are commonly sold in craft stores, and The Kids’ Multi-
cultural Art Book (Terzian 1993, 44–45) suggests making them out of paper
plates. It is important for teachers to understand the significance of dream
catchers; otherwise, they may introduce activities that mock cultural tradi-
tions. Dream catchers are traditionally given to children by their parents,
as was the case with Guy, who gave a dream catcher to his young son when
he was having bad dreams. The purpose of the dream catcher is to catch
the child’s dreams in its web so that the bad dreams can melt away in the
morning sun. It is sacred to the parent and child relationship and creates
special memories. To see the dream catcher reduced to a class craft project
takes away from that special significance.

§ Magic Power Shields
A typical stereotype of American Indian peoples is one of mysticism and
magic. Some activity books, such as The Kids’ Multicultural Art Book (Terzian
1993, 18–19), suggest that children create “magic power shields” out of
paper plates. Teachers should be aware that many Indian people do not
appreciate seeing traditional objects referred to as “magical,” with symbols
that have special significance to individuals incorporated into class projects.

Activities such as this can build barriers between cultures and create animos-
ity. Part of learning to understand and respect various cultures is becoming
aware that symbols may mean different things in different traditions. For
example, in many Native cultures the clown is considered sacred because he
makes you laugh. This is a very different significance than that accorded to
the clown in European American society. To refer to “magical power shields”
reinforces stereotypes of the superstitious American Indian and suggests
that Native Americans are not as advanced spiritually as other peoples.

§ Sand Paintings
Teachers sometimes assume that it is okay to have children create Navajo
(Diné) sand paintings because colored sand is used for other art activities.

The activity books Global Art (Kohl 1998, 125) and More Than Moccasins
(Carlson 1994, 172) give specific directions for children to make Navajo
sand paintings, although the authors acknowledge that they are part of
religious or healing ceremonies. Sand paintings are indeed sometimes used
Chapter 1: Native American Issues in Early Childhood Education § 21