American Indian Religious Traditions

An Encyclopedia

by Suzanne J. Crawford and Dennis F. Kelley


How is peyote used in Native American religious ceremonies? How do various tribes conduct the rites of birth, adolescence, marriage, and death? What is potlatch and why was its practice forbidden? Readers will learn how religious tradition influences Native American social, political, and material culture and vice versa.

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Cover image for American Indian Religious Traditions

June 2005


Pages 1271
Volumes 3
Size 7x10
Topics Mythology/General
  • Hardcover



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    Hardcover: £242.00/262,00€/A$403.00

Combining the work of Native Americans and non-Native scholars, this reference work explores indigenous North American religions, religious practices, and rituals.

This extensive work goes beyond similar surveys that focus only on anthropology and history and explores the religious practices, movements, institutions, key figures, ceremonial systems, and religious accoutrements indigenous to North America, from the precontact era to the present. Taking a deep and informed look specifically at the religious and spiritual nature of Native Americans, the encyclopedia places traditions within their historical and theoretical context, examining their relevance within Native religious life and practice as well as within the academic study of religion.

Topics covered include key ideas and issues, religious and political leaders, primary ceremonies, mythic figures, and related cultural subjects, such as basketry, whaling, farming, and bison hunting, which have religious significance for Native peoples. Contributors include noted scholars of American Indian religious culture, including many who come from tribal traditions and can offer valuable insights and observations from their personal experience.


  • 150+ entries including extensive entries that address complex key ideas and pan-tribal movements, placing them within their historical and contemporary contexts
  • Comprehensive lists of further readings for each entry that provide the reader resources for deeper research
  • Illustrations including photos of community members, prominent places within traditional sacred geographies, regalia, basketry, traditional artwork, and more
  • Maps detailing tribal homelands, sidebars providing background of regional groups, and a listing of recognized tribes


  • Prepared under the auspices of an editorial board composed of Native Americans and other scholars
  • Contextualizes topics, placing them within longer essays providing students and educators with a broader sense of the topic and its importance
  • Examines the academic study of Native American religious traditions
  • Discusses the outside influences on Native American religion and culture, including boarding schools, missionization, and U.S. laws
Author Info

Suzanne J. Crawford, PhD, is assistant professor of religion and culture at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA. She received her degree in religious studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.

Dennis F. Kelley, PhD, is a visiting professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Missouri, Columbia, MO. He received his degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, CA.



"This three-volume encyclopedia is designed to define the academic study of American Indian religious traditions and to provide a reference that is sensitive to the political and ethical concerns of Native communities."Reference & Research Book News

"This ambitious study of Native American religion, put together by scholars Crawford . . . and Kelley . . . boasts upward of 100 contributors, more than half of whom are Native Americans, and covers such general subjects as oral traditions, spiritual and ceremonial practitioners, dance, healing, and art. . . . High school and public libraries encountering the vast canvas of Native American spiritual life should consider purchasing it."Library Journal

"American Indian Religious Traditions: An Encyclopedia is highly recommended for academic and large public library collections."Booklist

"The set is a great addition to reference works on Native Americans. It is recommended for any library with a Native American collection. It is a unique set since many of the authors of the entries are Native Americans."

"American Indian Religious Traditions represents the great range of Indian spiritual traditions found in the United States and is a good start for readers and students interested in learning more about our indigenous cultures."American Reference Books Annual

"Recommended. All levels."Choice

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