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RE190 – Indigenous Religious Traditions

This course seeks to understand the importance of land, ceremony and identity in contemporary native spiritual traditions.

A thematic introduction to the study of religious beliefs and practices in indigenous communities that explores issues of land, ceremony and identity in contemporary native cultures. The course requires a week-long visit to a native community that combines critical academic analysis with experiential engagement and reflection. The class seeks to place theoretical understandings from the discipline of religious studies into conversation with reflections on the contemporary experience of native peoples. We will guide this conversation by focusing on the themes of land, ceremony and identity. The importance of place will guide the method as well as the content of course study. A trip to Pine Ridge, South Dakota presents the opportunity to meet Lakota people, visit their sacred sites, participate in their ceremonies and listen to their stories.

Studying indigenous cultures runs the dual risks of romanticism as one idealizes the value of native traditions and fatalism as one despairs over the overwhelming social stresses on indigenous communities. Genuine understanding avoids these dangers by situating learning in the concrete experience of real people living in actual communities and avoids the temptation of reducing living, breathing and complex human beings to abstract intellectual ideas or academic theoretical constructs.

Also listed as: ES200