We Have a Religion

The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom

by Tisa Wenger

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780807832622
  • 9780807894217
For Native Americans, religious freedom has been an elusive goal. From nineteenth-century bans on indigenous ceremonial practices to twenty-first-century legal battles over sacred lands, peyote use, and hunting practices, the U.S. government has often acted as if Indian traditions were somehow not truly religious and therefore not eligible for the constitutional protections of the First Amendment. In this book, Tisa Wenger shows that cultural notions about what constitutes "religion" are crucial to public debates over religious freedom.

In the 1920s, Pueblo Indian leaders in New Mexico and a sympathetic coalition of non-Indian reformers successfully challenged government and missionary attempts to suppress Indian dances by convincing a skeptical public that these ceremonies counted as religion. This struggle for religious freedom forced the Pueblos to employ Euro-American notions of religion, a conceptual shift with complex consequences within Pueblo life. Long after the dance controversy, Wenger demonstrates, dominant concepts of religion and religious freedom have continued to marginalize indigenous traditions within the United States.


  • The University of North Carolina Press; May 2009
  • ISBN: 9780807894217
  • Read online, or download in secure ePub format
  • Title: We Have a Religion
  • Author: Tisa Wenger
  • Imprint: The University of North Carolina Press
Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780807832622
  • 9780807894217

In The Press

While [Wenger's] rich history of the intersection of Pueblo customs and American law will doubtless be useful for those within American Indian studies, her historically routed mediations on the category of religion makes this book essential reading for everyone who studies American religions, and arguably many others in religious studies as well. Wenger's meticulously researched and theoretically sophisticated work is exceptional in any number of ways. . . . So often, books engage well with either theoretical ideas or with detailed historical work. Wenger is able to do both.--Journal of the Faculty of Religious Studies

Subject categories
ISBNs
  • 9780807832622
  • 9780807894217