The dreamcatcher — a popular symbol of positive energy and protection in modern culture — has deep roots in Native American culture and is significant in many indigenous groups’ spiritual identity.

According to Ojibwe legend, the dreamcatcher was created by a spiritual leader who received a vision from the Spider Woman, also known as Asibikaashi.

The Spider-Woman showed the leader how to make a web to catch bad dreams while allowing good dreams to pass through the center of the web and enter the mind of the dreamer. The feathers on the dreamcatcher act as a soft ladder for good dreams to slide down and enter the mind of the dreamer, while the bad dreams are trapped in the web and disappear with the morning light.

The Ojibwe people are one of the largest indigenous groups in North America, with rich history and traditions that have been passed down through generations.

The dreamcatcher was traditionally used to protect infants and children from nightmares and bad dreams.

Dreamcatchers were hung above beds and would filter out bad dreams. As the practice became more widespread throughout different regions, cultures and tribes, the designs and forms of the dreamcatcher changed.

The dreamcatcher is not only a tool for catching dreams but it also holds significance in the broader context of indigenous spirituality. The Ojibwe people believe that everything in the natural world has a spirit, and the dreamcatcher is no exception. The web is said to represent the interconnectedness of all living things, while the feathers represent the breath of life that connects all beings.

Athen Canyon, a freshman studying business management, shared her experience with dream catchers as a child. Despite her heritage in the Navajo Tribe, Canyon grew up with a dream catcher, a gift from her grandmother.

“I always had trouble sleeping,” Canyon said. “She told me that it would help me in my sleep and take the bad dreams away. It was comforting, and I still have it today.”

Despite its cultural significance, the mass production and commercialization of dreamcatchers have led to concerns about cultural misappropriation.

Canyon shares that many non-indigenous people use dreamcatchers as decorative objects without understanding the spiritual and cultural significance behind them.

According to the Indigenous Foundation, commercial use of the dream catcher shows a “watered-down version of the purpose of the dreamcatchers … ‘they are hung to catch bad dreams.’”

As a spiritual and cultural tool that has been passed down through generations, the dreamcatcher’s significance remains strong today.

“It is important to purchase dreamcatchers from authentic and reputable sources that are made by Native American artisans,” Canyon said.

The dreamcatcher is also a symbol of indigenous resistance and resilience. In the 1970s, during the American Indian Movement, dreamcatchers were used as a symbol of cultural identity and a way to resist assimilation.

Today, many indigenous artists continue to incorporate dreamcatchers into their artwork as a way to honor their heritage and express their cultural identity.

To learn more about dreamcatchers and the Ojibwa tribe, check out their website.