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Defend the SacredNative American Religious Freedom beyond the First Amendment$
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Michael D. McNally

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691190907

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691190907.001.0001

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Religion as Weapon

Religion as Weapon

The Civilization Regulations, 1883–1934

(p.33) 1 Religion as Weapon
Defend the Sacred

Michael D. McNally

Princeton University Press

This chapter offers crucial historical context and shows just how freighted the category of religion can be for Native peoples. Religion, or its absence, served as a key instrument in the legalization of the dispossession of North America, first through the legal Doctrine of Christian Discovery, which continues to inform federal Indian law, and second through the criminalization of traditional religions under the federal Indian Bureau's Civilization Regulations from 1883 to 1934. As devastating as the regulations and their assemblage of civilization with a thinly veiled Protestant Christianity were, affected Native people strategically engaged religious freedom discourse to protect those threatened practices that they increasingly argued were their “religions” and protected under religious liberty. Even as the government and missionary sought to curb Native religious practices thought to retard civilization, Euro-Americans began in earnest to fantasize about a Native spirituality that they could collect, admire, and inhabit. But while this awakened Euro-American appreciation for Native cultures served to help lift the formal confines of the Civilization Regulations in the 1930s, it has continued to beset Native efforts to protect collective traditions.

Keywords:   Civilization Regulations, collective traditions, Native cultures, Native religious practices, criminalization, traditional religions, religious freedom

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