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Making Religion on the Reservation: Native Americans & the Dilemmas of Religious Freedom

March 22, 2018 @ 4:10 pm - 6:00 pm

The IRCPL Religion and Public Life Series

Tisa Wenger –
Making Religion on the Reservation: Native Americans and the Dilemmas of Religious Freedom

What did religious freedom mean for Native Americans at the turn of the twentieth century, a time when the U.S. government was working to eliminate Indigenous identities and few Americans considered this freedom applicable to their traditions? This talk argues that religious freedom claims could sometimes serve indigenous assertions of cultural and political self-determination—and shows how Indigenous traditions were often transformed in the process. On Indian reservations across the United States, Native Americans found their religious freedom claims limited by the cultural biases and coercive structures of settler colonial rule. 

Tisa Wenger is an Associate Professor of American Religious History at Yale Divinity School. Her research and teaching interests include religious encounters in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States, especially the U.S. West; the cultural politics of religious freedom; and the intersections of race, religion, and empire in American history. Her books are We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom (2009) and Religious Freedom: The Contested History of an American Ideal (2017). Her current research asks how colonial encounters made and re-made both indigenous and white settler religion in the early national United States.

Before joining the YDS faculty, Professor Wenger taught at Arizona State University and held a Bill and Rita Clements Research Fellowship at Southern Methodist University’s Clements Center for Southwest Studies. She has published essays in many edited collections and academic journals, and currently sits on the editorial boards of Religious Studies Review and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

The Religion and Public Life Series is co-sponsored by the Columbia University Department of Religion. Event details are not finalized. Check back regularly for up-to-date information.


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