Native American Heritage Month Reading

Some Suggested Titles from AAR's Reading Religion

Reading Religion is an open book review website published by the American Academy of Religion. The site provides up-to-date coverage of scholarly publishing in religious studies, reviewed by scholars with special interest and/or expertise in the relevant subfields. Reviews aim to be concise, comprehensive, and timely.

Below, the editors of Reading Religion have selected some books and reviews from the site and have shared some titles available to review. If you’re interested in reviewing books for Reading Religion, take a look at the guidelines. If there are any books missing from the Reading Religion site that you think should be there, email [email protected].

Available to Review

Defend the Sacred: Native American Religious Freedom beyond the First Amendment

By Michael D. McNally

From the publisher:
“From North Dakota’s Standing Rock encampments to Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks, Native Americans have repeatedly asserted legal rights to religious freedom to protect their sacred places, practices, objects, knowledge, and ancestral remains. But these claims have met with little success in court because Native American communal traditions don’t fit easily into modern Western definitions of religion. In Defend the Sacred, Michael McNally explores how, in response to this situation, Native peoples have creatively turned to other legal means to safeguard what matters to them.

To articulate their claims, Native peoples have resourcefully used the languages of cultural resources under environmental and historic preservation law; of sovereignty under treaty-based federal Indian law; and, increasingly, of Indigenous rights under international human rights law. Along the way, Native nations still draw on the rhetorical power of religious freedom to gain legislative and regulatory successes beyond the First Amendment.”

Black Indians and Freedmen: The African Methodist Episcopal Church and Indigenous Americans, 1816-1916

By Christina Dickerson-Cousin

From the publisher:
“Often seen as ethnically monolithic, the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in fact successfully pursued evangelism among diverse communities of indigenous peoples and Black Indians. Christina Dickerson-Cousin tells the little-known story of the AME Church’s work in Indian Territory, where African Methodists engaged with people from the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles) and Black Indians with various ethnic backgrounds. These converts proved receptive to the historically black church due to its traditions of self-government and resistance to white hegemony, and its strong support of their interests. The ministers, guided by the vision of a racially and ethnically inclusive Methodist institution, believed their denomination the best option for the marginalized people. Dickerson-Cousin also argues that the religious opportunities opened up by the AME Church throughout the West provided another impetus for black migration.”

Indigenous Theology and the Western Worldview: A Decolonized Approach to Christian Doctrine

By Randy S. Woodley

From the publisher:
“This volume by a Cherokee teacher, former pastor, missiologist, and historian brings Indigenous theology into conversation with Western approaches to history and theology.

Written in an accessible, conversational style that incorporates numerous stories and questions, this book exposes the weaknesses of a Western worldview through a personal engagement with Indigenous theology. Randy Woodley critiques the worldview that undergirds the North American church by dismantling assumptions regarding early North American histories and civilizations, offering a comparative analysis of worldviews, and demonstrating a decolonized approach to Christian theology.

Reviews to Read

All My Relatives: Exploring Lakota Ontology, Belief, and Ritual

By David C. Posthumus

From the review:
“Posthumus provides a detailed analysis of the nature of human persons by differentiating among the four different “souls” that the Lakota attribute to humans. This discussion is particularly valuable for the way in which it locates the self in relation to other cosmological phenomena such as ghosts and animating power.” - Fritz Detwiler

Kiowa Belief and Ritual

By Benjamin R. Kracht

From the review:
“[This is a] welcome, important contribution to the literature on Plains Indian Religions, specifically the Kiowa. The work is a critical resource, a comprehensive, careful examination [...] Kracht has accomplished excellent, dedicated work [...].” - Inés Hernández-Ávila

The Gods of Indian Country: Religion and the Struggle for the American West

By Jennifer Graber

From the review:
“[...] Graber tells an incredibly important story and offers a significant counter-perspective to how the field typically narrates 19th-century American religion. [...] This book is a model piece of scholarship for those working in American religious history and should be on the bookshelves of all in the field.” – Emily Suzanne Clark

The Specter of the Indian: Race, Gender, and Ghosts in American Seances, 1848-1890

By Kathryn Troy

From the review:
“In her creative approach to reconsidering American Spiritualists, Kathryn Troy turns readers’ attention towards the relationship between Indian ghost visitations and the impulse towards social reform [...] [T]his is a fascinating, innovative, and important volume. It is written in clear and engaging prose.” - Angela Pulley Hudson