When the authors of a deck say: “we had to seriously consider the issue of cultural appropriation… the meanings given here represent a vast generalization of our idea of an imagined, but in no way real, universal and popular interpretation”… you just know you’re in for something interesting. I wish I did an unboxing video for this. I think you would be impressed with my range of emotions as I went from excited… to, well… read on.
Name: Native American Oracle Cards
Creator: Laura Tuan, Massimo Rotundo & Kaya Walker
Publisher: Lo Scarabeo
Number of cards in deck: 33
Illustrations: The illustrations themselves are decent. The color themes work well together, and the border works for every card (they don’t always). I only have respectable things to say about the art itself. The content of the art, however, I find problematic.
There are several instances where the illustration doesn’t match the card descriptions. For example, a card depicting a god of fertility and music, Kokopelli, who is Hopi, hunched backed, and usually depicted in motion, is shown in these cards as a stoic, adolescent male who is holding a flute in his hand… and doesn’t seem too happy about it. Other cards show landscapes that don’t match the Native imagery used. Why is there a NorthWestern totem pole in the SouthWest? Why is there a Moose (assuming an Artic area and thus peoples) with more Southern imagery?
When I bought the deck entitled “Native American Oracle Cards” I expected, with a name like that, a well-rounded representation of diverse peoples who are still very much alive and well today. I expected to see diversity, I expected some research to have been done, I expected too much. As I flipped through the deck I was met with mainly Plains and SouthWestern Native imagery- with little differentiation made between any. It’s a stereotype… the authors even admit to that when they claim it’s a “generalization of our idea of an imagined interpretation”. For all that, why not just call the deck “Our Fantasies of Native Americans”? But no, wait, that would be degrading, imperialistic, and appropriating. It’s kind of like making an “Ancient European Oracle Deck” and only using Viking imagery. Much more effort should have been put into it if such a general name is used.
Feel: These cards are laminated, made of good card stock, about 3.7×5.5, and have rounded edges. They are easy to shuffle and come with a nice box to protect from fraying or otherwise deteriorating.
Purpose: The authors state that the deck was initially made for fortunetelling, however, the focus later changed to inspiration and guidance. That said, this deck is best used as an “extra pull”. I’d only use this after giving a reading as a “bonus card”. Even then I would only use it if the client specifically asked for this deck to be used.
Booklet: Before going through the cards I was initially excited to see that the guidebook was thick! I thought to myself, “great! There’s going to be so much information packed in this!” Then I flipped through the booklet. There are 127 pages in this booklet, but only 35 of them are in English. Almost three-quarters of
this book is in another language (Spanish, German, French, Italian and Russian). Since there are 33 cards, this does not lend for much information given for them. It also certainly means there are no illustrations either. One spread is given for the deck, and in the front, there is a lofty explanation for the illustrations. One might even call it an apology? Unsure. Did I mention there are also quite a few typos? Yikes.
Final verdict: I wanted to love this deck. I was so excited when I saw it in the store. I was ultimately quite disappointed with it, and I can’t recommend it to anyone.