Project Archive: Native American Spirituality and Indigenous Knowledges

This is a snapshot of project information archived on 2 September 2022. Please contact the project team for most recent updates.

Native American Spirituality and Indigenous Knowledges

Subject: Cultural Studies

Book Language: English

Audience: Students of all levels and backgrounds

Book Cover:

Created date: July 11, 2022

Updated date: August 9, 2022

Target Release Date: 2023-08-01


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Our research revealed an alarming gap exists within higher education for Native voices telling their own ‘story’, their own cultures and lifeways. Many texts and articles about Indigenous spirituality are written or edited by non-Native scholars. It is understandable that when

scholars and others, whether Indigenous or not, seek to find credibility in our future open resource textbook, they will first look to see what Indigenous voices are included in the content, editing, and supporting materials.

Therefore, our intent is to allow tribes and sanctioned leaders as culture bearers of their own knowledges and practices to guide content. Because the United States currently has 574 federally recognized tribes, a strict focus is necessary to select tribes for the textbook, provide context in which each is presented, identify potential Indigenous voices representing each tribe, and build relationships with both tribes and contributors.

Our aims are reflected in the following consistencies set forth for this project:

A critical goal is

creating understanding acquired through an Indigenous lens.

An Indigenous paradigm is not gained quickly. Students will learn to recognize implicit bias, stereotypes, colonial precepts that still impact Native cultures today, and perspectives known as “Native ways of thinking and knowing.” These are very different than Western concepts of relationships, social and religious constructs, perceiving, and learning. They are foundational to understanding the voices of the textbook.

Selecting tribes by region will simplify our presentation of materials.

Tribes selected for a comprehensive study are narrowed first by region: 1-Pacific Northwest, 2-Southwest, 3-Southeast, 4-Central Plains, 5-Eastern Woodlands tribes, 6-Alaska, and 7-Hawaii.

Tribal practices will be presented within the context of each tribe’s history and culture.

This includes ancient traditions as well as contemporary practices.

Students will also make connections topically.

Some traditions are practiced across numerous tribes, such as medicine men/women, naming and healing ceremonies, shamanism, metaphysical belief systems, vision quests, rites of passage, dancing, music, and arts.

Relationship is at the center of everything we do.

A core value of Indigenous people is relationship - whether with tribes, contributors, reviewers, the future audience of our textbook, or to our work. We consider the end product as living and relational.


Tribal resources and cohesive relationships with tribes will guide the selection of tribes. Creation of the materials is dependent upon the following.

Tribal sanction of materials included in the text;

Availability of tribal voice(s);

Credibility of supportive scholarly resources, and

Diversity of formats to meet the needs of multiple learning styles.


In keeping with our personal expertise and skill sets, we have found in co-teaching to lean upon one another’s experience and strengths to share the workload. This will apply to project management, editing, and the many other skills required for completion.


Ancillary goals in curriculum development are Indigenization and decolonization.

Indigenization incorporates Indigenous world-views, knowledge, and perspectives into the learning materials. These are obviously not homologous but vary from tribe to tribe, and may be constructed directly by each tribe, tribal scholars, and /or tribal representatives. We seek out only information that is provided publicly by the tribe itself, or provided to us by tribes or sanctioned scholars. We will seek tribal leaders/scholars that are credible voices in their fields of work.


This term addresses a shift in the way Indigenous Peoples view themselves and the way non-Indigenous people view Indigenous Peoples. It replaces Western interpretations with Indigenous interpretations of history, our cultures, our peoples and how we go about our scholarship using Indigenous research methodologies. That means clarifying truths in history that were presented to us by White historians, non-Native federal agents hired by the government in our nation’s early years, voices of foreign invaders, such as tribal interpretations by the French or the Spanish, etc. Some context may demystify the Doctrine of Discovery, notions of Manifest Destiny and even the factual accounts of Christopher Columbus in opposition to the American myth.

_____________________________________________ We were pleased to discover that some Texas universities are also actively engaging Native American students as part of their diversity outreach. UT Austin has a five-year initiative for reconciliation of races, as does similar work of Professor Faye Yarborough at Rice University. In like manner, we are building relationships with campus organizations that are bringing Indigenous students together.

Short Description:

Native American spirituality or ‘religion’ is as diverse as the beliefs and practices of more than 600 tribes across our continent. This text explores the beliefs and spiritual practices of numerous Indigenous tribes in various regions of the U.S., including sacred ecology and Native knowledges; cosmology and mythology; beliefs in one god and plural gods; supernatural encounters; practices of dreams, vision quests, dances, ceremony, and more. All of these and other traditions will be learned, synthesized, and discussed within a broad context of appreciating ancient and contemporary sacred tribal practices through an Indigenous lens. Our text will do this through respected Indigenous voices. Our aim is to nest Native knowledges and practices (allowed to be shared publicly) within tribal historical and cultural contexts. Artwork: Mike Larsen (Chickasaw) (b. 1945) Untitled, oil on canvas