Crawford Suzanne J. - Kelley Dennis F. - American Indian religious traditions

Authors : Crawford Suzanne J. - Kelley Dennis F.
Title : American Indian religious traditions
Year : 2005

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Introduction. Welcome to American Indian Religious Traditions: An Encyclopedia. These volumes are the culmination of an enormous amount of effort from many different corners of both academia and Indian Country. Our goal in creating this reference work was to compile a set of articles that would help to define the academic study of American Indian religious traditions as it is undertaken at the beginning of the twenty-first century and to create a reference work both sensitive to and reflective of the political and ethical concerns of the Native communities upon which these volumes depend. The entries in these volumes, therefore, do not approach religion as an isolated experience but as an integral part of cultural, political, economic, and social lives, placing their individual topics within the wider social and political context. These volumes are made up of entries by Native academics and community members, as well as non-Native scholars who have demonstrated themselves sensitive to the concerns of Native communities and aware of the political implications of their work. We are proud to present entries written by the top scholars in the field, whose scholarly endeavors are a testimony to their ethical commitment to Native cultural survival. We have worked to ensure that Native voices are respected in these volumes, encouraging our authors to consult with elders, community leaders, and tribal cultural resource managers whenever possible. And we are encouraged that more than half of the entries in these volumes are written by scholars who are themselves of Native descent. For much of its early history, scholarship on Native communities was done by non-Native authors who had little knowledge of the internal workings of Native communities and cultures. Interpreted from the perspective of outsiders, much of this early work misrepresented Native religious life. This encyclopedia seeks to rectify this problem by presenting Native spiritual traditions as they are understood by people within the communities themselves. This project stands apart from other reference works in a number of ways. The authors in these volumes have been allowed to maintain their own voice, perspective, and position. We have not dictated the focus, content, or style of entries, but provided guidelines within which our authors have creatively worked. The reader may therefore notice the use of the first person and the citation of individual Native elders as authoritative sources, methods not often found in reference works. Rather than a series of brief, definitional paragraphs, defining specific ceremonies or individuals, readers will find more general entries that place the specific within a broader context. In an era when much of Native religious life is at risk because of threats to sacred land, repressive laws, or misappropriation by New Age religious groups, it is extremely important that these traditions be presented to the wider public in a way that both informs them of the true nature and context of Native religious life and is simultaneously respectful of Native privacy and intellectual property rights. Our overall intention for this project is to provide students with research and learning resources that are both reliable and respectful. The entries and suggestions for further reading set their topics within a historical context as well as a contemporary setting; it is our hope that students, as well as interested individuals in the wider population, will find this a valuable resource as they begin their own research into American Indian cultural life. Rather than brief dictionary-style entries we have chosen to include longer entries that demonstrate the complexity and context of the issues involved. To lead the reader through the complex web of culture, experience, and history that makes up American Indian religious life, the entries are intentionally linked, via cross-references. Longer, chapter-length entries are devoted to broad topics such as Dance, Ritual and Ceremony, and Religious Leadership. ...

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