Appropriation of shelters


Hi, so I was told to post this question I have here, if this isn’t the right thread feel free to direct me wherever seems better.

I have a friend in north central Illinois who is interested in building a Sami Lavvu, but isn’t sure if it would be appropriative or not. I’ve done some research but can’t really seem to find much of anything let alone a consensus on the matter. Can someone here give me some feedback or point me in the right direction? Thanks!


Hi Jake,

I think about this kind of thing pretty regularly. I would say, off hand, that to create a “conical” shelter inspired by the various types around the globe (Lavvu, Tipi, Wikiup, etc.) is not appropriation. Rather, to call it one specifically would be appropriation. Even then, not all “appropriation” is bad, so long as it’s more appreciation than misappropriation. This can be a gray area where people argue over what constitutes “appreciation.” So be wary. I’d also check out my essay, “Towards an Understanding of Cultural Appropriation in Rewilding” for a deeper look. Does all that make sense?


This really is helpful, thank you!


How about this: can your friend build a lavvu, or build something that looks like a lavvu? And then, how does he communicate about it?

Let me try and express these thoughts in a few more words: What makes up a lavvu? Just the physical structure, even made from the “right” materials, or also the community life, prayers, landscape, songs etc. that went into it? If you’ve never helped build one in that complete sense, then what to call the structure you build? A shelter based on the lavvu? Looking like a lavvu? In my opinion, talking about whatever you build in that manner (with such questions about the background as well as your own intentions and background) doesn’t sound like appropriation but instead like honoring. It actually makes the shelter come alive and happy, rather than a museum artefact separated from its history, people, landscape and all.


While I myself do not desire to build a Sami Lavvu, I have in the past built a shelter based on a celtic roundhouse… which was the tradional house of my ancestors. I try to be careful with apporpration, but also some thing are shared by many anient cultures… Do your resurch. And have fun on your journey!