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Indigenous Religious Traditions in Five Minutes

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Indigenous Religious Traditions in Five Minutes aims to answer many of the questions that come to mind when we think about the religious lives of Native and Indigenous peoples of the world. Scholars from many fields answer dozens of questions about a wide variety of specific Indigenous religious traditions and an array of the ideas, practices, and beliefs many people associate with them. Do Native peoples have “creator Gods?” What is shamanism? Why are there so many spellings of "voodoo?" Is Paganism considered an Indigenous religious tradition? We also interrogate the concept of "Indigenous religious traditions," by asking what the phrase means in relation to the larger fields of Native American and Indigenous Studies and Religious Studies, whether all religions were at some point "indigenous," and what the value of studying Indigenous religious traditions is today.

Specialists respond to questions like these and many others in easily accessible language and provide references for further exploration, making this volume useful for personal study or classroom use.

Because each chapter can be read in about five minutes, the books offer ideal supplementary resources in classrooms or an engaging read for those curious about the world around them.

Published: Sep 14, 2022

Book Contributors


Section Chapter Authors
Preface Molly Bassett, Natalie Avalos
Indigeneity and Religion
1. Why does the title of this book use the phrase “Indigenous Religious Traditions” rather than “Indigenous Religions?” Tisa Wenger
2. What makes a religion an "Indigenous religion"? Graham Harvey
3. Were all religions at one time "Indigenous"? Tyler Tully
4. What does "Indigenous" mean for the study of religion?  Tyler Tully
5. Are Indigenous religions only those practiced by Indigenous people? Angela Puca
6. How can spiritual traditions create Indigenous traditions in new places? Ras Michael Brown
7. Why do some Indigenous people insist that what they practice is not religion? Chris Jocks
8. Why is "religion" a problematic category for understanding Indigenous traditions? Philip Arnold
9. Why is it sometimes risky to present Indigenous traditions as religious? Bjørn Tafjord
10. Is “tradition” a useful category? Greg Johnson
11. What skillsets do students and scholars use to understand Indigenous religious traditions? Molly Bassett
12. Why study Indigenous religious traditions? Graham Harvey
13. What is the origin of common stereotypes of Native American religious life? Sarah Dees
14. How do ideas about race shape understandings of Native American religious life? Sarah Dees
15. Why Are Indigenous African and Afro-Diasporic Religions Relevant to You? Ayodeji Ogunnaike, Oludamini Ogunnaike
16. What makes Vodou an Indigenous tradition? James Padilioni, Jr.
17. What’s the difference between Vodou, Voudou, and Voodoo? Emily Clark
18. Is Vodou (Voodoo) a religion? James Padilioni, Jr.
19. Is Voudou an American religion or an Indigenous religion? Emily Clark
20. Is Adivasi religion the same as Hinduism? William Elison
21. Is Adivasi religion different from Hinduism? William Elison
22. Is Shinto an Indigenous religion? Emily Simpson
23. Do Chicanos practice Indigenous religious traditions? Rudy Busto
24. Is Neo-Paganism an Indigenous religious tradition? Abel R. Gomez
25. Are Indigenous people who adapt or alter their rituals and traditions (either by choice or historical necessity) less authentic than their ancestors? Kelsey Dayle John
26. Can I convert to or practice an Indigenous religious tradition if I am not an Indigenous person? Donnie Begay
27. Can non-Indigenous religious traditions become Indigenous? Bjørn Tafjord
The Study of Indigenous Religious Traditions
28. What moral responsibilities do scholars and students have in studying Indigenous religions? Afe Adogame
29. Why is repatriation a religious issue for many Native communities?  Greg Johnson
30. Is an academic approach to Indigenous religions innately colonizing? Afe Adogame
31. Can we still use the term “shamanism”?  Emily Simpson
32. Do Native peoples have shamans? Edward Anthony Polanco
33. What is animism? Graham Harvey
34. Why does it matter how we translate religious concepts in Indigenous traditions? Josefrayn Sánchez-Perry
35. How do archaeologists study religion in the Indigenous past? Mallory Matsumoto
36. Why reconstruct pre-colonial Indigenous religions in the Americas? Yanitsa Buendía de Llaca
37. Are Aztec dancers practicing a religion?  Yanitsa Buendía de Llaca
38. What’s the deal with cultural appropriation? Gregory Alles
39. Was the Washington R*dskins cultural appropriation? Matt Sheedy
40. What is decolonization and what does it have to do with Indigenous religious traditions? Natalie Avalos
Indigenous Religious Traditions
41. What is a Land-based religious tradition? Dana Lloyd
42. What’s the relationship between Indigenous religion and land or territory? Chris Jocks
43. What does it mean for an Indigenous religion to be “place-based?” Abel R. Gomez
44. If Native American religious traditions are place-based, how do "urban Indians" practice their religion? Dennis Kelley
45. Do Indigenous Peoples believe plants, animals, and waters have personhood? Meaghan Weatherdon
46. What does it mean when Indigenous peoples say animals are sacred? Kelsey Dayle John
47. What role does pilgrimage play in Indigenous religious life? Paul Gareau, Jeanine LeBlanc
48. Are Indigenous peoples inherently environmentalists? Dennis Kelley
49. What is the Idle No More movement, and what’s a round dance? Matt Sheedy
50. How does resource extraction impact Native American religious practices? Richard Callahan, Jr.
51. Was the #NoDAPL occupation at Standing Rock "spiritual" or "religious"? Richard Callahan, Jr.
52. Do Hawaiian religious practices have any political significance? Marie Alohalani Brown
53. Why is the public expression of Indigenous Religion political? Stacie Swain
54. Why were Native American religious traditions outlawed? Jennifer Graber
55. Is Indigenous law religious? Dana Lloyd
56. Do Indigenous People Have Churches? Pamela Klassen, Roxanne Korpan
57. What is the Native American Church? Lisa Poirier
58. Is Peyote a medicine or a drug? Jennifer Graber
59. What are Native American foodways, and how are they religious? Andrea McComb Sanchez
60. What is a sweat lodge? Suzanne Owen
61. What role does healing play in Native American and Indigenous religious traditions? Or, what's religious about health and healing in Indigenous religious traditions? Suzanne Crawford O'Brien
62. Is Voudou dangerous? Emily Clark
63. Why is distinguishing a Native American worldview from a EuroChristian one important? George Tinker
64. Do Indigenous peoples have “gods?” Patrisia Gonzales
65. What do Indigenous religious traditions in the Americas have in common? Inés Hernandez-Avila
66. What is a nagual/nahual/nawal? Mallory Matsumoto
67. What are sacred bundles and why are they important in Indigenous cultures in the Americas? Molly Bassett
68. What motivates Nahuas to practice their religion of el costumbre? Abelardo de la Cruz
69. What are ancestor spirits, and what role do they play in Hawaiian religious life? Marie Alohalani Brown
70. Do all Indigenous Peoples in North America practice the same ceremonies as one another? Meaghan Weatherdon
71. What is the Ghost Dance? Tiffany Hale
72. How are Indigenous narratives and oral traditions like “texts?” Dennis Kelley
73. What do trickster tales tell us about human beings, and why are they important in Indigenous cultures? Davíd Carrasco
74. Why do so many Indigenous religions include trickster figures or ceremonial clowns? Chris Jocks
75. What is the Popol Vuh (and why is it not a Maya Bible)? Mallory Matsumoto
76. Did colonial missions destroy Indigenous religions? Brandon Bayne
77. Why would Indigenous people venerate Roman Catholic saints? Daniel Nourry Burgos
78. How might we talk about Indigeneity and Catholicism in the Andes? Sierra Lynn Lawson
79. Did Indigenous children lose their religion in US residential boarding schools? Zara Surratt
80. How do Indigenous religions approach disability? Zara Surratt
81. Are Indigenous religious traditions patriarchal? Donnie Begay
82. Did Indigenous people really honor LGBT/Two-Spirit people? Lisa Poirier
83. What is the relationship between Indigenous religion and sovereignty? Stacie Swain
Indigenous Futurity
84. Indigenous futurism … is that like science fiction? Matt Sheedy
End Matter
Index Molly Bassett, Natalie Avalos


It is an important contribution and will prove useful in many contexts both within and outside of academia.
Critical Research on Religion