Yesterday I invited students enrolled in my “American Civilization to 1865” class to make what I call “dream caughts” instead of dreamcatchers, the handmade hoops that some Native Americans created, for among other things, protection. The idea behind this assignment was to have fun, but also be thoughtful about the lives of indigenous people.
My husband, who teaches Western Civilization, at the University of Alabama, looked a bit skeptical as I cut up yarn on Sunday with the intention of sharing it in little cellophane bags.
I put all of the dream caught kits, which included a twig from our yard, into two baskets and passed them around a huge lecture hall. I was surprised to get the baskets back without a single kit in them.
I made only 70 kits and just made 50 more and I’ll keep making them as long as I have yarn from a batch given to me by a friend who, after a postdoc in our University’s A.S. Williams III Americana Collection, moved to a teaching position in Denmark a few years ago (thank you, Christa! Your craft project materials live on!).
What I really loved was also showing the students an excerpt from Jimmy Stewart’s 1952 western “Bend of the River,” which is filled with stereotypes, and reading their responses concerning the experiences of the earliest inhabitants of the place we now call America.
So many of them said they wanted to learn more about Native Americans from the perspectives of Indians. This is an amazing group of students and I look forward to working with them as the semester progresses.
One aside: I also enjoyed watching our cats enjoy the one twig I permitted them to smell. One of them took that twig. We’re still looking for it.