Religiosity and Spirituality in Two American Indian Populations


Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. 48, Issue 3: sept. 1 2009.

Co-authored* by Eva Garoutte, Sociology Department

“Our findings suggest that there is a great deal of religious belief on the reservations we surveyed. It's especially noteworthy that at least half the respondents in both tribes described traditional, tribal beliefs as very important. Tribal spiritualities have been overtly oppressed from European contact into recent times. Related practices, such as dances and giveaways, were even made illegal in the late 19th century under the federal government's 'Indian Religious Crimes Code' and punishable by imprisonment.  It was only in 1978 that the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed to guarantee people's right to traditional, tribal belief and practice.  So the fact that so many people today indicate that they still maintain their tribal beliefs is pretty amazing.

“But traditional religious beliefs aren't the end of the story. We also found that about 1/3 of people sampled said that Christianity was “very important” to them. And another one-third said that NAC beliefs were very important. (The numbers don't add up to 100% because some people had beliefs in more than one tradition.)   So we can see that religious beliefs is not only very prevalent on the reservations studied.   There really is considerable religious diversity, too.” 

- Eva Garroutte


Comments from Eva Garroutte

Eva GarroutteInterview Excerpt (2:55 min)
Full Interview (37:19 min)

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