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Home > Academics > Undergraduate > Ethnic Studies >
Ethnic Studies
Course Description

Ethnic Studies 120
Indigenous Religions of the Americas

This course takes a critical, decolonial approach to the study of Indigenous religions and spirituality. We will investigate how invading forces impacted Indigenous spiritual practices and explore laws and practices that impeded religious ceremonies and traditions, including the Sundance ceremony, the Ghost Dance, and Peyotism. We will also examine Native resistance and resiliency, including battles for religious freedom, the preservation of traditional religious practices and the emergence of new syncretic forms of Christianity.

The course uses a multivocal approach, examining creation stories, origin narratives, and contemporary spirituality alongside primary source documents from early explorers and colonial legal documents. Various viewpoints will be covered including Indigenous peoples from different geographic areas, Native and non-Native perspectives, and spiritual leaders from various Indigenous nations.

Questions to be examined include: What role has the study, suppression and appropriation of Indigenous religions played in settler colonialism? Should non-Native peoples study Indigenous religions or participate in Native ceremonies? How can non-Native peoples support Native efforts to protect traditional and sacred knowledge?

This course is a rigorous, graduate-style seminar with substantial readings and assignments. The course is structured in units that investigate the Plains region, northeast coast, southeast areas, and California. Small group presentations will integrate the readings with a specific region and prepare a workshop or teach-in related to it.

Provisional Reading List
Alfred, Taiaiake. Wasasé: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom. University of Toronto Press, 2005.

Columbus, Christopher. Journal of Christopher Columbus (during his first voyage, 1492-93) and documents relating to the voyage. Farnham, England:Ashgate, 2010. (Ebrary)

Jones, John Winter (ed.) Divers voyages touching the discovery of America and the islands adjacent [electronic resource] / collected and published by Richard Hakluyt in the year 1582. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2010. (Ebrary)

Markham, Clements R. (ed.). The letters of Amerigo Vespucci and other documents illustrative of his career. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2010. (Ebrary)

Tinker, George E. Missionary Conquest: The Gospel and Native American Cultural Genocide. Fortress Press (1993)

Tinker, George E. Spirit and Resistance: Political Theology and American Indian Liberation. Fortress Press (2004)

Class attendance and participation/discussion (10%). Annotated bibliography (10%). Literature review (15%). Presentations/workshop (30%). Research paper (35%).


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Last Updated: 6/22/17