Guide to Research in Native American Religions

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

Article Databases | Library Tips | Government Documents Encyclopedias, Bibliographies and Resource Guides | Journals | Websites




The study of Native American 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 Native American Studies can be found in the  Guide to Sources on Native Americans, a resource guide from the Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library (SSHEL). Additional information is available on the American Indian Studies Library Resources LibGuide. 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 home pages and organizations.



Article Databases

Almost any general article database will contain some material on Native American religions. The specific purpose and topic of your research will determine the best database to use. If you are writing a freshman-level term paper or if you need background information to help select a topic, use a database with general coverage, such as Academic Search Premier. Here you can find ideas and background information on your topic and articles that address your topic from various perspectives (socio-political, economic, and technical, for example). Also, the articles tend to be easier to read and understand than more technical, scholarly papers. If you need more in-depth information, try one of the more specialized databases listed below. Keep in mind that you may need to phrase your search somewhat differently for each database, so don't hesitate to play around with different search terms.

Before you start your search, try to compile a list of potential keywords. This is always a good idea, but it is especially useful for conducting searches in a new and interdisciplinary field, such as Native American Studies. A good first place to start is to identify possible culture group names for your search, using an ethnonym index. Two good ethnonym indexes are listed below.


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 Anthropology Librarian, Beth Sheehan, 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.

Sample searches:

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. Native American religions can be found within this broad general religious database. ATLA Religion Index tends to be 1-3 years behind current journal issues.

Sample searches:


America: History and Life

America: History and Life covers material relating to American History and related fields "from prehistory - present". It is an extremely powerful and useful research tool, with many flexible searching features:

Search hints:

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 myriad issues surrounding native spirituality, ranging from the U.S. Army Chaplaincy to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. is particularly useful when you don't have a specific governing body in mind -- it searches across the traditional governmental boundaries, including federal, local and tribal governments and foreign nations across the globe. You can limit your search to federal, all state, or a particular state government, as well as perform a universal search across all agencies and divisions.

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.

Sample searches:


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.

Sample searches:


Academic Search Premier

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

Sample searches:


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.

Search tips:

Sample searches:



Library Tips

Which library should I use?

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign consists of multiple libraries across campus abd the materials you need may be housed in more than one library. The libraries listed below have good collections of materials in the areas of Native American Studies and Religious Studies.

Social Sciences, Health, and Education Library
100 and 101 Library
1408 W. Gregory, Urbana
Strong collections in anthropological and sociological aspects of Native Americans and religion.

Government Information Services, Access and Collections  
450-F Library
1408 W. Gregory, Urbana

History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library
424 Library
1408 W. Gregory, Urbana
Primary holdings for religious studies and for Native American history.

Law Library
104 Law Building
504 E. Pennsylvania, Champaign
Law Reviews, books, and journals relating to United States law and legal issues surrounding indigenous religion and spirituality.

University Archives
19 Library
1408 W. Gregory, Urbana
Useful collections in the Archives include the: Doris Duke Indian Oral History Program Archives, the Julian H. Steward Papers, 1842-1976 and the Joseph B. Casagrande Papers, 1938-82.

How can I find materials on my topic?

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 Native American Religions in the Online Library Catalog.   Use the "Browse Subject" option, and enter one of these subject headings.

Shelf Browsing Hints



Encyclopedias, Bibliographies and Selected Core Texts

Library materials may have multiple call numbers depending upon the type of material and location in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign library system. Major classification systems: Library of Congress classification system (call numbers starting with a letter), government document material (call numbers starting with DOC), and the Dewey Decimal Classification system (call numbers that start with a number or the letter Q). Children's books are an exception and start with the letter S, followed by a Dewey call number. To determine the location of an item, search for the title in the  Online Library Catalog. To learn more about call numbers look at Learn to Read a Call Number and How to Read a Library of Congress Call Number.

General Background Sources

American Indian Sacred Objects, Skeletal Remains, Repatriation and Reburial : a Resource Guide. 1992.

Q. 306 EN19
Encyclopedia of World Cultures. 1991-1996.
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.

E76.2 .P75 2000
A Native American Encyclopedia : History, Culture, and Peoples. 2000.

General Native American Religion Sources

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

299.703 G41D and E98.R3 G46 1992
Dictionary of Native American Mythology. 1992.

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

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

291.211 D38G and E59 R38 D4 1973
God is Red. 1973

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

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

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

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

E59.R38 C37 1993
Native American Religion: An Introduction. 1993.

299.78 G41N and E98.R3 G48 1982
Native American Religions: An Introduction. 1982

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

230.08997 K541n
A Native American Theology. 2001.

299.7 Z65N
Native North America. 1996.

E98.R3 R44 1990
Religion in Native North America. 1990.

299.7 H87A:E and E59.R38 H813 1979
The Religions of the American Indians. 1979.

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

Of Local Interest

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

977.389 C368c
Cahokia: Mirror of the Cosmos. 2002.

978.00497 K356H
Kenekuk, The Kickapoo Prophet. 1988.

507 M862x
The Mound 72 Area: Dedicated and Sacred Space in Early Cahokia. 1999.

299.7 M34PL and E78.G73 M37 1975
Plains Indian Mythology. 1975.

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).

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

299.7994 C128
California Indian Shamanism. 1992

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

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

299.784 L827R and E99.H7 L64 1991
Religion and Hopi Life in the Twentieth Century. 1991.




970.00497 Am355
American Indian Culture and Research Journal.

K1 .M437
American Indian Law Review.

970.105 AMQ
American Indian Quarterly.

261.705 CH
Church & State.

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 : Akwe:kon Journal : a Journal of Indigenous Issues.

200.5 RE

973.0497005 WI
Wicazo Sa Review.



Web Resources

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.