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Belief and Worship in Native North America


“Hultkrantz has been almost unique in bringing to the study of Indian religions the qualifications of an expert in comparative religion. Whereas those narrowly trained in anthropology have customarily studied Indian myths and rituals merely as incidental artefacts of cultures chiefly interesting for other reasons, he has regarded them as worthy of study for their own sake. The result has been to make him the master of a field that has been astonishingly neglected by most Indianists. The fruits of his approach are evident in the seriousness of the questions raised in these essays.”—John Webster Grant, Studies in Religion


Swedish Scholar Åke Hultkrantz is recognized as one of the foremost authorities on American Indian religions. This collection of fifteen of his essays on the religious attitudes and practices of a variety of North American Indian communities brings together some of his best work over the last twenty-five years.

The essays are grouped into four areas: belief and myth, worship and ritual, ecology and religion, and persistence and change. Topics include the importance of myths and rituals; religious beliefs among the Plains Indians and Wind River Shoshoni; the cult of the dead; the Spirit Lodge, the Sun Dance Lodge, and the Ghost Dance; the spread of the peyote cult; feelings toward animals and natural phenomena; and the problem of Christian influence on Northern Algonkian eschatology.

To students of American Indians Hultkrantz reveals the integrity of Indian religion as a subject in its own right, not divorced from culture, history, or ecology, but religion as an effective force in Indian life. To students of comparative religion he offers American Indian religious phenomena as a treasure trove of data to be mapped and related to the religions of the world.

Christopher Vecsey’s introduction summarizes Hultkrantz’s major ideas and outlines the field work and research methods which distinguish his scholarship.

Bibliography included.

Åke Hultkrantz is Professor of Comparative Religion and head of the Institute of Comparative Religion, University of Stockholm. He is author of more than a half-dozen books and 200 articles on American Indian religion.

Christopher Vecsey is Assistant Professor of History at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and co-editor of American Indian Environments: Ecological Issues in Native American History.


Open access edition funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities Open Book Program.