Native American Languages Native American Tribes Native American Crafts

Native American Dream Catchers

Maybe it's our most common art-related question: "Where can I get a real Native American dreamcatcher that isn't fake?" Before we answer it, let us give you a little history.

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Dreamcatchers are an authentic American Indian tradition, from the Ojibway (Chippewa) tribe. Ojibway people would tie sinew strands in a web around a small round or tear-shaped frame--in a somewhat similar pattern to how they tied webbing for their snowshoes--and hang this "dream-catcher" as a charm to protect sleeping children from nightmares. The legend is that the bad dreams will get caught in the dreamcatcher's web. Traditionally Native American dreamcatchers are small (only a few inches across) and made of bent wood and sinew string with a feather hanging from the netting, but wrapping the frame in leather is also pretty common, and today you'll often see dreamcatchers made with sturdier string meant to last longer and decorated with beaded thongs. During the pan-Indian movement in the 60's and 70's, Ojibway dreamcatchers started to get popular in other Native American tribes, even those in disparate places like the Cherokee, Lakota, and Navajo. So dreamcatchers aren't traditional in most Indian cultures, per se, but they're sort of neo-traditional, like frybread. Today you see them hanging in lots of places other than a child's cradleboard or nursery, like the living room or your rearview mirror. Some Indians think dream-catchers are a sweet and loving little tradition, others consider them a symbol of native unity, and still others think of them as sort of the Indian equivalent of a tacky plastic Jesus hanging in your truck.

So where can you find a native-made dreamcatcher? In Indian territory, almost everywhere. People are making dreamcatchers in just about every Indian reservation in the US or Canada, and you can find them at any tribal gift shop, powwow, or Indian event. But on the Internet, oddly enough: practically nowhere. Most of what you see when you search for "Native American dreamcatchers" are cheap objects mass-produced in an Asian sweatshop somewhere or glued together by non-native teenagers with eBay accounts, and these "dreamcatchers" often bear only vague resemblance to the actual American Indian craft it is supposed to represent. If you are looking to buy an authentic dreamcatcher that was actually made by Native Americans--either because it's important to you to have the real thing or because you want to support native people with your purchase--then here is our list of American Indian craftspeople who supply dreamcatchers for sale online. If you have a website of native dreamcatchers to add to this list, let us know. We gladly advertise any individual native artist or native-owned art store here free of charge, provided that all dreamcatchers are made by tribally recognized American Indian, Inuit, or First Nations artists.

Thank you for your interest in Native American dream catchers!

Native American Dream Catcher Stores

On our main site we do our best to avoid slowing down our page loading with graphics, but this page is about art, so we'd really be remiss in not supplying a few representative dreamcatcher pictures. All photos are the property of their respective artists; please visit their sites to see their work in more depth.

Northern Nights Native Dreamcatchers
Leather-wrapped American Indian dreamcatchers made by a Cree woman.
Core Designs Indian Dreamcatchers
This Ojibway man decorates his dreamcatchers with totem animals and small stones,
a common modern tradition.
North American Indian Dream Catchers
These Cree dreamcatchers are a good example of the tear-shaped wooden frame style.
The additional feathers around the base are this artist's personal design.
Dreamcatcher Online
Dreamcatchers in both traditional and non-traditional forms, made by an Ojibwa couple.
Navajo Dream-Catchers
     Navajo Indian dreamcatchers wrapped in colored leather, also featuring tied stones.
Pueblo Southwest Dreamcatchers
     Another Navajo artist's dream catchers--you can also buy an old-fashioned Navajo cradleboard here.
Navajo Works Indian Dream Catchers
     Thong-wrapped dreamcatchers and cloth dolls from a Navajo family's craft shop.

Dreamcatcher Books
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I'm surprised there aren't more books out there about how to make a dreamcatcher--it's a type of craft that ordinary people, even children, make in Indian culture. Dreamcatchers aren't like beadwork or weaving, which you really need to be a master craftsperson to do well. And they're not like, say, false face masks, which are sacred and shouldn't be mimicked by children. But the only dreamcatcher how-to book I could find was out of print. Here it is if you want to buy it used, and a couple of nice dream-catcher picture books for children:

Dream Catchers Dreamcatcher Grandmother's Dreamcatcher
Illustrated instruction kit by a Navajo couple on how to build dreamcatchers. Beautiful picture book about an Ojibwa baby's dreamcatcher. Gentle story of a contemporary Chippewa girl learning the dream-catcher tradition.

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Dreamcacher Links

Here are some other good internet resources for learning about or purchasing Native American dreamcatchers:

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act: US law against passing off fake American Indian crafts as genuine.
Dreamcatcher History: Origin and background of the dreamcatcher tradition, with photographs of old Ojibwe dreamcatchers.
How To Make Dreamcatchers: Good online instructions for making your own dreamcatcher, with drawings and patterns.
Ojibway Dreamcatcher Legends: Traditional ideas about dreamcatchers and their meaning from Ojibway culture.
Legend of the Dream Catcher: A Lakota version of the dreamcatcher story featuring the trickster Iktomi.
Native American Dreams: The meanings and interpretation of dreams in various North American Indian cultures.
Native American Arts and Crafts: Orrin contributed to this larger directory of Indian crafts, many of which are authentic.
Native American Cultures: View our pages for individual Indian tribes, most of which have artistic information.

About us: This website belongs to Native Languages of the Americas, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting endangered Native American languages. We are not artists ourselves, so if you are interested in buying some of the dreamcatchers featured on this page, please contact the artists directly. All images remain the property of the artists who have created them. Though we have featured only Native American dream catchers identified with the name and tribal affiliation of each artist, we haven't called the tribal offices to check up on any of them, and we only know a few of them personally. We also don't guarantee any of their products. This is not an exhaustive list of authentic dreamcatchers--if you would like us to add your dreamcatcher's site, please contact us with your URL and tribal affiliation. We advertise any individual native artist or native-owned art business here free of charge. We do not link to dream-catchers or other crafts which are not made by tribally recognized American Indian, Inuit, or First Nations artists, so please do not ask us to. And finally, websites do occasionally expire and change hands, so use your common sense and this general rule of thumb: if the creator of each individual artwork is not identified by name and specific tribe, you are probably not looking at authentic American Indian dreamcatchers.

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