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Handbook of American Indian Religious Freedom
Rating :
Author(s) :
Christopher Vecsey
Pages :
Pub Date :
Edition(s) at Erowid :
1993(pb,1st ed,fine)
Publisher :
Crossroad Publishing
American Indian communities regard their religious freedoms to be endangered. Despite the First Amendment and an act of Congress that purports to protect Indian religious rights, Native Americans find the practice of their religious traditions to be hindered, often by governmental interference.

This book, a collective effort by scholars, lawyers, and American Indian spokespersons has three goals:
  • to identify the specific ares in which Indian religious practices are undermined by federal, state and local policies as well as by private enterprises;
  • to help non-Indians understand the conceptual bases for American Indian religous beliefs and practices;
  • to suggest practical ways in which to protect the free exercise of Indian religions in the face of other conflicting claims and values.
Specifically, Indians find their religious practice endangered in the following ways:

  • the degradation of geographical areas deemed sacred sites;
  • the maltreatment of Indian burials, particularly bodily remains;
  • the prohibition against capture, kill, and use of endangered or protected species;
  • the regulations regarding the collection, transport, and use of peyote;
  • the alienation and display of religious artifacts;
  • the prevention of Indian rituals and behavior (the wearing of braided hair, particiption in sweats or pipe ceremonies), particularly in authoritarian institutions.
This book is both a manifesto decrying policies that endanger American Indian religious traditions and a manual showing ways in which these traditions might be protected and promoted.

Contributors include Walter R. Echo-Hawk and Roger C. Echo-Hawk, Vernon Masayesva, Robert S. Michalesen, Steven C. Moore, Sharon O'Brien, Omer C. Stewart, and Deward E. Walker Jr.

Christopher Vecsey is Professor of Religion and Director of Native American Studies at Colgate University. He is the author of Imagine Ourselves Richly: Mythic Narratives of North American Indians and Traditional Ojibwa Religion and Its Historical Changes.