In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • In Search of Wakȟáŋ
  • Rani-Henrik Andersson (bio)
The Spirit and the Sky: Lakota Visions of the Cosmos. By Mark Hollabaugh. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017. xvii + 254 pp. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $50.00 cloth.
God’s Red Son: The Ghost Dance and the Making of Modern America. By Louis S. Warren. New York: Basic Books, 2017. xiii + 480 pp. Maps, photographs, notes, index. $35.00 cloth.
Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary. By Joe Jackson. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016. xviii + 599 pp. Maps, photographs, notes, index. $30.00 cloth.

Three recent works discussing prominent and popular themes in Lakota historiography form the basis of the following reflections on the concepts of religion, worldviews, Indigeneity, and identity. While focused primarily on the Lakotas and the Northern Plains, they also touch upon larger issues in Indigenous studies.1

Louis Warren’s God’s Red Son: The Ghost Dance and the Making of Modern America explores the 1890 Ghost Dance religion from the perspective of Indigenous and White American modernities; Joe Jackson’s Black Elk: The Life of An American Visionary looks at Lakota history through the life of the famous Oglala holy man, Black Elk; and Mark Hollabaugh’s The Spirit and the Sky: Lakota Visions of the Cosmos focuses on the Lakota system of belief, or, as Euro-American scholars would call it, religion, through the framework of ethnoastronomy.

Recent years have seen a welcome shift in Native American studies, and Indigenous studies in general, to a deeper understanding of Indigenous perspectives. In his Call for Change: The Medicine Way of American Indian History, Ethos, and Reality (2013), historian Donald Fixico urges a change in approaches and research paradigms, if we really want to comprehend Indigenous peoples’ lives as lived reality. Recent works, such as Brendan Hokowhitu’s Indigenous Identity and Resistance: Researching the Diversity of Knowledge (2010), Maximilian C. Forte’s Indigenous Cosmopolitans: Transnational and Transcultural Indigeneity in the Twenty-First Century (2010), Joshua L. Reid’s The Sea Is My Country: The Maritime World of the Makahs (2015), and Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (2012), call for new approaches in studying Indigenous issues, such as the reconstruction of space, decolonization, and Indigeneity around the world.2 For me, Indigenous studies is a prime example of the usefulness [End Page 227] of inter- and crossdisciplinary methods. Thus, when studying any Indigenous group, one necessarily needs to be familiar not only with history, but with politics, environmental and economic issues, religion, languages, and societal characteristics—in short, Indigenous worldviews.

A worldview, to put it simply, is a set of ideas, ideologies, and practices that form the basis of a person’s or a group’s identity and can be closely attributed to terms such as religion. Studying Indigenous agency in the past or present necessarily requires exploring and respecting Indigenous peoples’ ways of looking at the world. The starting point is the connection to a certain place, to land, to nature, and the idea of the human-nature relationship. The old stereotype of Indigenous peoples being somehow magically connected to nature and the environment has in recent years been replaced by an acuter understanding and respect for what many call an “Indigenous way of being.” World-renowned Lakota scholar Vine Deloria Jr. noted that “Indians do not talk about nature as some kind of concept or something ‘out there.’ They talk about the immediate environment in which they live. They do not embrace all trees or love every river or mountain. What is important is the relationship you have with a particular tree or a particular mountain.”3

Deloria talks about relationship, deeply connected to kinship and meaning. That meaning could be sacred, or practical, but on a fundamental level Indigenous peoples do not separate themselves from nature and the environment; rather, they are part of them. For Indigenous peoples, time and place are linked through connections to land, to places where the ancestors have lived and been buried. It is not only the visible world but also the invisible, spiritual world that manifests itself through and in nature. Religion is not separate from everyday life as it...


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