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Are You Not Feeling the Positive Vibrations?

And so we turn our attention to Santa Barbara City College, where creatively-inclined students have been “exploring issues and practices of… interactive and chance-derived work.” Specifically

Students harnessed complicated architectural designs and intricate woodworking to create an artistic teepee, which they set up on one of the quad’s grassy knolls earlier this month. As the student newspaper reports, the four art students who built the teepee saw it as “a place of positive vibes and community engagement.”

See? Positive vibes.

Assembled from “upcycled and reclaimed material from an old farm house,” and “lined with pillows and rugs,” the students’ vibe-enhancing structure “provides a comfy, squishy environment” for music and conversation. Also included in the experience is “a shelf of blank books for people to express themselves in written word.” Engorged with positivity, the students posted an invitation for others to partake in their creation: 

Join us to support the opening day of an amazing art event and large scale installation… The piece harks back to ways of the past in American history while juxtaposing current counter culture with futuristic elements that bring it to life.  

It even glows in the dark

We want to provide you with an experience out of the mundane - right here on campus! Celebrate our labour of love with live music, refreshments and a trading post! That’s right, bring something to trade and become part of the installation.

Oh, come on. Who could resist so much switched-on grooviness? Surely what followed was a day of vibrant self-expression and communal hugging?

Alas, no

The Native American students said that the installation was a form of appropriation that was hurtful to them.

You see, anything that resembles a teepee, even an art-installation-cum-music-venue that glows in the dark, is apparently covered by some kind of ethno-spiritual copyright:

“What people don’t understand is that for many Native people, spirituality and sacredness are not separate from everyday life,” said Native American student Eli Cordero. “When you take something from the culture you’re taking something that’s important to us on that level.”

And so,

What followed was a collaborative dismantling of the structure. According to the artists’ instructor Elizabeth Folk, the group came together to encircle the empty space where the controversial teepee once stood.

Ah, a spiritual moment.

And then things went downhill.

As Native American student Carmen Cordero pointed out, this void was soon filled with equally divisive dialogue. “I was told by other students to just get over it. Don’t feel angry about it, don’t feel anything about it,” said Cordero, Eli’s sister.


Some called the removal of the teepee an act of censorship and a threat to artistic freedom. Others voiced concern for the lack of a safe space for marginalised students to convey their pain and anger.

Pain and anger. Over a luminous love-in teepee.

“I was most disturbed by the accusatory, negative, and hostile tone directed at those who said [the teepee] was culturally offensive,” said Tina Foss, a Native American studies instructor at City College… “It’s bewildering that this level of ignorance and racism would occur at an institution that has been celebrated as tied for No. 1 community college in the nation,” said Native American student Jacqs Nevarez.

Yes, a bewildering level of racism. A discussion about sensitivity has therefore been deemed necessary:

In the aftermath of the incident, Executive Vice President Jack Friedlander announced an upcoming forum titled “Inspiration or Marginalisation? Cultural Appropriation and its Impact.” The event is scheduled for Tuesday, April 7.

Students will presumably be invited to realign their heathen views with the proprietary claim of ethno-spiritual copyright.