Guide to Research in American Indian Religions

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This guide was developed to help University of Illinois students locate materials on American Indians religions both in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library system and on the Web.

Introduction | Using Library Resources | Article & Journal Databases | Journals | Background Information: Encyclopedias, Bibliographies & Handbooks | Core Texts | Web Resources




The study of American Indian religions is a highly interdisciplinary topic, and draws together materials from disciplines such as history, anthropology, literature, law, and religious studies. A good place to start for general resources for American Indians Studies can be found in the  Guide to Sources on American Indians, a resource guide from the Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library (SSHEL). The Government Information Services – Native American Resources is a great starting place for finding resources provided by various levels of government, including treaties, legislation, census information, and more general resources. Links are provided to tribal government homepages and organizations.



Using Library Resources


The libraries listed below have good collections of materials in the areas of Native American Studies and Religious Studies.


Use the Online Library Catalog to search for books and journals. You can search for keywords in the title or you can search by subject heading. 

Subject Headings

The following Library of Congress (LC) subject headings may be useful for locating books and journals on American Indian religions. Select "Subject from the drop down menu and enter one of these subject headings.

Shelf Browsing



Article & Journal Databases

Databases are structured sets of information, stored in print or online. Often, databases are online collections of journal article citations and full-text. Find articles about a specific topic by using keywords, subject headings, authors, and more.

eHRAF World Cultures
This is a very rich database, but it can be challenging for new users since it is organized differently from most other databases. For further assistance with eHRAF, ask the SSHEL Information Desk for assistance. Also be sure to check out the  eHRAF World Cultures Guide.To access the Ethnonym Index: Select eHRAF Collection in Ethnography, and click on the Browse option along the top of the frame. The index that appears is an Ethnonym index, which should allow you to identify various names for tribal and cultural groups. These different names should provide you with keywords for your search. A paper-based Ethnonym Index can be found in volume 10 of the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, which is listed below.

ATLA Religion Database
This is the primary index for religious studies. Good coverage of issues relating to theology and church issues, as well as most of the religious studies journals. ATLA also indexes edited collections as individual essays. American Indian religions can be found within this broad general religious database. ATLA Religion Index tends to be 1-3 years behind current journal issues.

America: History and Life
America: History and Life covers material relating to American history and related fields from prehistory to the present. It is an extremely powerful and useful research tool, with many flexible searching features.
This is the official portal to the U.S. Government. Since issues surrounding Native American spiritual and religious practice are often central to conflicts over religious freedom, land use, and the rights of Native groups within the nation-state. The U.S. government has innumerable publications that address a myriad of issues surrounding native spirituality, ranging from the U.S. Army Chaplaincy to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. In addition, provides a link For Tribal Governments and Native Americans, which lists a variety of resources related to Native peoples, and provides links to the Department of the Interior (home of the Bureau of Indian Affairs) and to a list of Tribal Government homepages.

Anthropology Plus
Anthropology Plus indexes a wide variety of resources in anthropology and religious studies (as well as many other related fields). Their search page is very simple to use, with helpful search tips.

Academic Search Complete
This is a good general database, and useful for finding general popular and academic resources in Native American religions.

Ethnic NewsWatch
Covers news, culture, and history from ethnic, minority, and native presses around the world, with full text coverage. The search interface is provided in both English and Spanish.




Journals are a type of periodical which contains signed scholarly articles. Journals are usually published by academic or association presses and include bibliographies.

970.105 ET 
Ethnohistory: a Quarterly Journal Relating to the Past of Culture and Societies in All Areas of the World

205 JOB 
Journal of the American Academy of Religion

972.750835 C433 
Native Americas : Akwekon Journal : a Journal of Indigenous Issues

200.5 RE 

973.0497005 WI 
Wicazo Sa Review



Background Information: Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, & Handbooks

Background information can be found in reference sources, online or in print, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks. Dictionaries contain brief definitions, usually only a sentence or two in length. Encyclopedias provide a more in-depth description, usually a few paragraphs in length. Handbooks contain descriptions that can be multiple pages and describe the development and future of a subject.

American Indian Sacred Objects, Skeletal Remains, Repatriation and Reburial : a Resource Guide. 1992. (Main Stacks Govt. Documents)

Q. 306 EN19
Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1991-1996. (SSHEL Reference)
A basic reference source to the cultures of the world. Provides descriptions of all the cultures of each region of the world or of a representative sample of cultures for regions where full coverage is impossible, as well as accurate descriptions of cultures of the past. Particularly useful is the Ethonym Index in Volume 10

Q. 973.0497 G131
The Gale Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. 1998. (Reference)
Providing essays on the history, culture and current status of approximately 400 Native American groups, this work is divided into four geographic volumes. An overview essay introduces each of the ten regions covered, giving a geographic perspective on the tribes covered, as well as insights on cultural and tribal communalities. Individual tribal entries follow alphabetically. Also featured are biographical profiles of prominent tribal leaders

E76.2 .P75 2000
A Native American Encyclopedia : History, Culture, and Peoples. 2000. (Undergraduate Library)
This reference provides a wealth of specific information about over 200 North American Indian groups in Canada and the United States. Readers will easily access important historical and contemporary facts about everything from notable leaders and relations with non-natives to customs, dress, dwellings, weapons, government, and religion.



Core Texts

Essay books and readers of historical and cultural significance in the field. 

General American Indian Religion Sources

389.208997 AM35 and E98.F6 A47 1984 .
American Indian Myths and Legends. 1984. (Undergrad)

299.703 G41D and E98.R3 G46 1992 . 
Dictionary of Native American Mythology.1992. (Multiple locations)

398.26 EA76 
Earth and Sky: Visions of the Cosmos in Native American Folklore. 1992. (Oak Street)

199.7 D384f 
For This Land: Writings on Religion in America, edited and with an introduction by James Treat. 1999. (SSHEL)

God is Red. 3rd. ed. 2003. (Oak Street) 

291.2120973 AL13N  
Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age. 1990. (Main Stacks)

346.730432 B812r
Religion, Law, and the Land: Native Americans and the Judicial Interpretation of Sacred Land. 1999. (Main Stacks)

970.00497 AL54S1992
The Sacred Hoop : Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions : With a New Preface. 1992. (Multiple locations)

Q. 016.398 C591N
Native American Folklore, 1879-1979: An Annotated Bibliography. 1984. (Main Stacks)

E59.R38 C37 1993
Native American Religion: An Introduction. 1993. (Undergrad)

299.78 G41N and E98.R3 G48 1982
Native American Religions: An Introduction. 1982. (SSHEL and Undergrad)

299.7 N2133 and E98.R3 N382 2000
Native American Spirituality: A Critical Reader. 2000. (Online)

230.08997 K541n
A Native American Theology. 2001. (Main Stacks)

299.7 Z65N and E98.R3 Z56 1996
Native North America. 1996. (SSHEL and Undergrad)

E98.R3 R44 1990
Religion in Native North America. 1990. (Undergrad)

299.7 H87A:E and E59.R38 H813 1979
The Religions of the American Indians. 1979. (Main Stacks and Undergrad)

299.793 ST39S
The Sacred Vision: Native American Religion and Its Practice Today. 1982. (Undergrad)

Of Local Interest

306.699798 H249B
Becoming and Remaining a People : Native American Religions on the Northern Plains. 1995. (Main Stacks)

977.389 C368c
Cahokia: Mirror of the Cosmos. 2002. (Multiple locations)

978.00497 K356H
Kenekuk, The Kickapoo Prophet. 1988. (Multiple locations)

507 M862x
The Mound 72 Area: Dedicated and Sacred Space in Early Cahokia. 1999. (Main Stacks and Prairie Research Institute)

299.7 M34PL and E78.G73 M37 1975
Plains Indian Mythology. 1975. (Undergrad and CCB)

Spiritual Practices of Specific Peoples

970.2 B56B11972 and E90.B82 A3 1961
Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux. 1961 (1932). (Multiple locations)

299.785 H722B
Black Elk's Religion: The Sun Dance and Lakota Catholicism. 1995. (SSHEL)

299.7994 C128
California Indian Shamanism. 1992. (Oak Street)

299.7 M77G1965 and E98.R3 M6 1965
The Ghost-Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890. 1965. (1991 edition online) (SSHEL and Undergrad)

016.2997 W585n
The Native American Sun Dance Religion and Ceremony: an Annotated Bibliography. 1998. (SSHEL)

299.784 L827R and E99.H7 L64 1991
Religion and Hopi Life in the Twentieth Century. 1991. (SSHEL and Undergrad) 



Web Resources

Links to online resources about Native American Religions compiled by universities, museums and similar institutions. 

Electronic Texts on Native Americans
University of Virginia Libraries
Search full text historical documents on Native American issues.
Lakota/Dakota Bibliography
Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Creighton University
This website is a project of Rev. Raymond A. Bucko, S.J., a Jesuit professor at Creighton University. The bibliography is biased towards Native Christianity among the Lakota and Dakota (Sioux), but there are a wide variety of other references about Lakota/Dakota culture and religion.
National Indian Law Library
Native American Rights Fund
NILL is the only comprehensive collection of past and present Tribal governmental documents, and literature about Native legal issues. When searching their catalog, use the global keyword or Indian tribe search options for best results.  
National Museum of the American Indian
Smithsonian Institute
On the NMAI’s Search the Collections by Object Specifics page, look in the “Type of Item” menu for the Ceremonial/Ritual items category to browse museum collections objects with ceremonial/ritual significance. Includes pictures.
Resources for Indigenous Cultures around the World

Sacred Texts -- Native American Religions
The Internet Sacred Text Archive
A volunteer run site collecting sacred texts from traditions around the globe. The Native American Religions site takes a respectful approach and lists historical texts and ethnographic accounts by culture group.