Today, in news of trends! The kinds of people who allow themselves to be interviewed for trend pieces have a hot new home decor item, and it’s the teepee, a type of indoor pillow fort Native Americans have been using as a cutesy objects of curiosity in their homes for thousands of years. According to The New York Daily News, the teepee is becoming some sort of bizarre status symbol among cool New York moms, like store owner Molly Guy, who drew her inspiration for her teepee not from teepees built by actual Native Americans, but from a Ralph Lauren ad. “On the inside I pinned a lot of photographs of mountains and my home in Colorado,” said one Brooklyn “nanny and poet.” “It’s a manifestation of my imagination.” Not the imaginations of Native Americans who needed to build themselves shelter from the elements. Kids love them!
When questioned on the trend of bourgeois bohemians putting teepees inside their homes, Ines Hernandez-Avila, Native American Studies department chair at the University of California, Davis, was a bit befuddled. “It’s a really strange thing to do,” she said. “Tepees are not meant to be inside another edifice. They’re meant to be outdoors, secured to the ground, with a hole opening up to the sky.”
Is it racist to appropriate the dwellings of native cultures and make things that look like them in which to sit and think? Maybe. But hey, counterpoint: teepees are awesome. They are elegant in their simplicity. The people who invented them are worthy of our admiration. Maybe it’s okay to have a teepee in your house if you don’t approach it like some kind of dickhead who models their life on Ralph Lauren ads? And if you donate $20 to a Native American charity each time you enjoy its use? Isn’t it okay for cultures to mix together? Or do the great atrocities committed against Native Americans by European settlers mean that any mixing of cultures carried out by non-Native Americans is just adding insult to injury?
Full disclosure: I had a teepee in my apartment like, four years ago. (Latepass, guys.) My roommate and his girlfriend made it out of branches and colorful sheets, and put some soft rugs in the bottom of it. While I was initially wary of it, its appeal was strong, and soon I found myself spending time in there after work when I needed to calm down about all the shit that was bothering me. It was a really nice place to be. It wasn’t about being “ironic” or making fun of Native Americans. It was about having a beautiful thing in our house. But if there are Native Americans who think that’s fucked up, I’m sorry. I will try to model my next indoor fort after the less beautiful but more birth right-y peasant huts of my own ethnic ancestors. Or maybe I’ll imagineer some type of futuristic space fort that hasn’t even been invented yet.