Dec 2, 2009

Chippewa Dream Catchers

On our way back from the Smokey mountains in Tennessee, we took a break in Cherokee, North Carolina. I was excited to see a Native American arts and crafts store owned by a Cherokee Indian (the shop was lined with his family pictures....He sure was proud of his lineage!). I have been waiting to visit historic sites or at least a museum for a long time and am looking forward to our trip to Cherokee

Among the things on display, all we could afford were a small boomerang and a Chippewa dream catcher. I had seen these earlier, but wanted to buy a handmade authentic piece and not a mass produced "made in china" Native American artifact. The seller's inputs were just what I needed to begin my research.

Peak into its history..
Chippewa dream catchers have a number of legends and folklore spun round them. No one seems to have a clear idea about how and when this object was first made. It is really sad that native American tribal history has been lost, forgotten or changed. Researching about American history always led me to books and resources documenting events after the Native Americans were forced from their lands and the Pilgrims and settlers occupied every inch of new found territory. As time passed, native population diminished in numbers. Survivors of different clans banded together to cling to what remained of their origins and this brought in new traditions reflecting the melting cultural elements. (There are a few reservation sites though!!)

Time took its toll and native culture, heritage and legends faded into oblivion. There are a few books and literary items which speak about native tribes but all are not found on book stands (at least where ever I looked for them). There is very limited documentation available in terms of research and historic evidence presented from Native American perspective.

Legends about dream catchers were forgotten until 1929,  when ethnographer Frances Densmore came up with documented account of this Native American Charm. She says that these ornamental charms were hung over cradles by the Chippewa Indians. They believed that these charms were powerful enough to filter and hold out any evil that comes in contact with it. This spider web like object was believed to guard children from evil spirits. I read about similar beliefs prevailing among natives throughout the Americas and as far as Mexico. One thing was common, their faith in super natural power and a belief that spiders would protect them while they were asleep. Sioux Indians believed that a dream catcher would hold their destiny. Every legend was in some way connecting man to the super natural elements.

Another legend says " these dream catcher filters out the bad ba-we-dji-ge-win (dreams) and allows only good thoughts to enter into our minds while we sleep. A small hole in the center of the dream catcher is where the good bawadjige may come through. With the first rays of sunlight, the bad dreams will perish."

I found another website which said, dreams were messages from sacred spirits. This Legend says that a hole in the center of the Dream Catcher allows good dreams to reach the sleeper and bad dreams get trapped in the web and disappear at the break of dawn. You can read more on dream catchers in this link : dream catchers.

This is an authentic handmade piece used to ward off evil.

Decorations and their meaning...
Each dream catcher is said to be unique and decorations and materials used have special meanings. The hoop is generally made of willow and is wound with leather for good aura. A single bead in the middle may represent the spider that is on the web. Scattered beads represent good dreams that have been caught throughout the night. A feather represents a symbol of breath of air and hence signifies the need for good air (quality). I believe that Native Americans understood the need for spiritual, emotional and physical well being. We all do...right!...the more we try to change the same we remain!


  1. I visited Cherokee many years ago. Your post about the dreamcatchers makes for an interesting read.

  2. Hi

    thank you for the comment. keep dropping by :)


  3. Hi Sudha,
    I was introduced to the dream catcher by an antique dealer in Bangalore. I picked up a few of them during my recent visit to Niagara falls. Thank you so much for the history behind it. I appreciate your effort in giving your readers the best. Thank you.

  4. hi preeti
    Thank u for stopping by, and I m glad you liked the post. Enjoy your dream catcher. I read your blog and loved it.

    Do keeping coming by and take care

  5. i was just wondering if the beads that are scattered around in the center have a certain meaning based off of their color.

  6. Hi usafjulie

    I did not come across any document which spoke about the colour of the bead in relation to any specific meaning...but yes, i had that doubt too :)...I tried inquiring and researching but havent got an answer yet keep stopping by :)


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