Context Matters: Studying Indigenous Religions in North America

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Abstract

Context is critically important to the study of indigenous religions in North America. This paper argues that the significance of context to indigenous (native, Indian, tribal, or aboriginal) religions is unique and particular. In studying indigenous religions, attending to context engages geographical, political, and methodological issues, which emphasize the diversity of indigenous ideas and experience. The Mi'kmaq relationship to their homeland, Mi'kma'ki, demonstrates the importance of land as fundamental context for indigenous religions; the figure of Kateri Tekakwitha illuminates the inextricably political nature of indigenous religions. Finally, methods, theories, and practices (such as self-reflexivity) that have arisen in indigenous contexts are important analytical tools in the study of indigenous ways of knowing/practices.

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