RU Global—Native American Faith in America

Native American Faith in America, by Michael Garrett and J. T. Garrett. New York: Facts on File, 2003.

Reviewed by Georgianne Bordner, University Librarian

November is Native American Heritage Month! If you are among the many whose knowledge about Native Americans is limited, Native American Faith in America, by Michael Garrett and J. T. Garrett, can help.

This brief introduction to Native American religion, history, and culture explains that most of the more than 500 Native American nations that were here when the Europeans arrived continue to exist, each with its own language, culture, and religious beliefs. Because of the great diversity that exists, it is impossible to discuss “the” Native American religion as a whole. Instead, the authors describe common elements found in many of the Native American cultures, illustrating their points with specific examples from individual tribes. They also discuss the impact of Christianity on traditional Native American religion, as well as the Native American roots of the New Age Movement. The result is a sweeping overview that gives the reader a small taste of the richness of Native American spirituality.

Since spirituality has such a central role in Native American life, the book is not limited to a discussion of religion, in spite of its title. One chapter deals with the many contributions that Native Americans have made to American culture, from food to sports to art. The authors also include a brief summary of Native American history, from the arrival of the Europeans to the present, and provide brief biographical sketches of important historical and contemporary Native American leaders. They emphasize that much of the Native Americans’ present political activity is based on their desire to preserve their faiths and beliefs and ensure that they do not disappear like some of their languages and customs.

The authors recognize that their book is far from an exhaustive treatment of Native American religion, and recommend several other resources for further study. But for the many Americans who know little about the subject, Native American Faith in America is a good place to start.