Is it ok to use tepees, or is this cultural appropriation?

Question: Is it ok to use tepees, or is this cultural appropriation?

It depends

Like every other decision we make in early childhood education and care, choosing whether it is right to use a tepee in your setting depends on what is happening in your context.

It’s not as simple as saying no or indeed yes. It is instead a layered and, at times, complex ethical decision about what is right.

An ethical response ought to include considerations of multiple perspectives including children, families, educators and the broader community – what do they think and believe? Who suggested using a tepee – why? What message does it send? What would the first people whose cultural icon this belongs to want us to do? How could you find out?

It’s helpful to talk about scenarios… Which feels more ‘right’ to you?

Scenario one: A child starts talking about the tepee they have at home – it was a birthday gift – and now they want to make one at the centre. Is it right to make a tepee with the children?

Scenario two: A team member comes to you and suggests you buy a tepee from a large commercial retailer – it’s on ‘special’ and it looks so beautiful. Is it right to buy the tepee?

The ECA Code of Ethics invites us to respect the perspectives of others and through collaborative dialogue, decide what is right to do – over to you!

Catharine Hydon
Early Childhood Consultant

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Child inside a tepee