After Thinking About Hooping and Cultural Appropriation

After my presentation today, I left both satisfied and troubled. I think it was particularly when Bruce asked me directly, “Well, do you think that hooping a form of cultural appropriation?” I obviously scrambled for answer. I think that it’s very easy to push off people’s “wrong doings” onto others, but it’s hard when one is personally confronted with their action. I’ve been struggling with this question all day.

I love hooping. It’s a huge hobby of mine. I perform with fire and traditional hoops. It gives me an excuse to go outside, a chance to move, an opportunity to meditate by myself. I could go on and on about the benefits that I’ve gotten from having an activity that is wholly mine.

However, I think it is cheap to then turn around and say, well it’s not my problem anymore. I don’t want to give it up, but at the same time, I don’t want to perpetuate the ignorance about the origins of the practice. I also don’t want to make others feel as if I’m stealing from them or lessening their own experience because of my own practice. I really wish that I had the opportunity to talk to native hoop dancers about their feelings towards the practice. What I found online was mostly ambivalent towards the practice, with a few cutting jabs at the lack of clothing some hoopers wear (which I mean, sometimes is fair enough).

In my head I have a lot of justifications running a muck in my head. Stylistically it is different, I spin on my body and off body with one (sometimes two hoops). Hoop dance uses multiple hoops and it’s not the same movements. But still those justifications are just that, justifications. I think I’m struggling with some guilt with how to handle a practice I love and its similarity with a practice of a people who have systematically had things stolen from them. I don’t know how I’ll resolve it though. Maybe if I see people taking Hoop Dance moves, I could start a dialogue about what native hoop dance means. Or by creating awareness. I don’t know. I would love to hear suggestions and opinions though to help me through my indecision.

Also, here’s a link to a forum on one of my favorite hooping forums entitled “hoop dance, feather earrings, and cultural appropriation” ( I think it’s interesting how quick people are to 1) dismiss the initial poster’s claims and 2) bring up their own native heritage.

Example: “I’m also part Cherokee and I really think that anyone who thinks wearing feathers/etc. are being insensitive to culture needs to get a reality check. People have been using different cultures as fashion inspiration for years and years. This isn’t the first time… and it’s really not a bad thing, either.”

I feel like if she was actually in-tune with her Cherokee ancestry, her tune might change (I doubt many actual native people’s would really use the ever-changing fashion industry as a justification of cultural appropriation of religious objects). Rather, we have a little blonde girl using a drop of blood with no attachment to culture trying to speak for a race that she is outside of.


Unrelated: Here’s an article on Noam Chomsky talking about environmentalism and First Nations taking the lead against the abuses to the environment

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