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Letter to the editor

Use of ‘spirit animal’ not appropriate

May 9, 2019

Dear Editor,

I am writing to you with concern of a section that was printed in the most recent Student Voice. On page 2, the section which prompts students to respond to a question, and this edition’s question, “What is your spirit animal?” This prompt is not appropriate and offensive. This phrase, which is apart of Indigenous culture is cultural appropriation, that needs to be acknowledged and understood as something that is not meant to be fun, playful or consumed. The term has risen in pop culture with in the past ten years, but it needs to be informed and when communicating to the public and using the term “spirit animal”, you are informing the public that it is alright to use a harmful term that diminishes the significance and meanings to marginalized cultures. The violent history and colonization through out North America only continues through the appropriation of Native Americans spirituality and culture.

I understand it was meant to be a fun, playful question. But the more appropriate question would be, “What is your animal alter ego?” Yet, now, due to the publication of the term “spirit animal” you have continued to let those who read the student voice, as well as the students interviewed, that “spirit animal” is a normalized and fun idea. I recommend that this is remedied in some way immediately.

Let this be a learning opportunity about privilege, the power of journalism and the harm that cultural appropriation due to the negligence of those who may not understand their ignorance and history, and an opportunity to empower (rather than use) disenfranchised people.

Regards,

Ann Lawton
Lecturer
Department of Art