View Chapters

Book: Indigenous Religious Traditions in Five Minutes

Chapter: 1. Why does the title of this book use the phrase “Indigenous Religious Traditions” rather than “Indigenous Religions?”

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.43116


This chapter begins by noting that the concept of religion as a distinct sphere of human belief and practice has a distinctly European and largely Christian history. European colonial authorities referred to Indigenous traditions by derogatory terms such as “heathenism” or “paganism” and did not view them as legitimately religious. Indigenous people have claimed and adapted the concept of religion for themselves, but have often found European ideas about religion to be an uneasy fit. The phrase “religious traditions” is not a perfect solution but offers useful distance from a category (religion) that has too often imposed a Christian-shaped mold.

Chapter Contributors

  • Tisa Wenger ( - twenger) 'Yale University'