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| Background Information: Encyclopedias, Bibliographies & Handbooks  | 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.

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.

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 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.

Human Relations Area Files (HRAF). (SSHEL Microforms) (Oak Street) (online) 

A specially organized collection of thousands of full text sources on almost 400 cultures worldwide. HRAF can be useful for anyone looking for background information or specific data on a particular ethnic group, culture or country, as well as by those investigating subject like architecture, kinship, political structure or settlement patterns on a comparative cross-cultural basis. 

All HRAF installments published since 1995 are available only via  eHRAF World Cultures, while most older installments are available only in print or microfiche. To check which cultures are covered by HRAF in what formats, and for more information on how to use HRAF or eHRAF World Cultures, see the online SSHEL “   Guide to the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF)”.


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 and 306.En19sup
Encyclopedia of World Cultures.  1991-1996. Supplement. 2002. (SSHEL Reference and Online)
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.

UXL Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. 3rd. 2012. (online) 
Five volumes organized by region then by tribe alphabetically. Describes current and former tribes. Each entry gives information on the location, population, language, history, religion, government, economy, and culture. Entries conclude with current tribal issues and a bibliography. 



Web Resources

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

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art
Located in Indianapolis, Indiana this museum website has information about collections, lesson plans and information for teachers, and instructions for accessing the museum library resources

Electronic Texts on Native Americans
University of Virginia Libraries
Search full text historical documents on Native American issues.

Index of Native American Museum Resources on the Internet
This website organizes links to Native American museums in the US, Canada, and Latin America. 

National NAGPRA Database
Provides information relating to the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act. Part of the National Park Service and U.S. Department of the Interior. 

National Museum of the American Indian 
Museum website features access to object collections, bibliography of resources for educators and students, and information about exhibits. 
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.