Research Programs: Summer Stipends

Period of Performance

6/1/2006 - 7/31/2006

Funding Totals

$5,000.00 (approved)
$5,000.00 (awarded)

A Limited Freedom: The Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and the Cultural Invention of Religion in America

FAIN: FT-54073-06

Tisa Joy Wenger
Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ 85281-3670)

In the Pueblo dance controversy of the 1920s, Pueblo Indians in New Mexico and their modernist allies effectively prevented the government from suppressing Pueblo dance ceremonies. They made their case for religious freedom by publicly defining the Pueblo dances as authentically religious, a strategy that expanded mainstream American views of religion even as it changed Pueblo strategies of self-representation. The book contributes to debates in religious studies and Native American studies by showing how the politics of religious freedom, in this controversy and elsewhere, are intertwined with evolving cultural definitions of religion.

Associated Products

We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom (Book)
Title: We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom
Author: Tisa Wenger
Abstract: For Native Americans, religious freedom has been an elusive goal. From nineteenth-century bans on indigenous ceremonial practices to twenty-first-century legal battles over sacred lands, peyote use, and hunting practices, the U.S. government has often acted as if Indian traditions were somehow not truly religious and therefore not eligible for the constitutional protection of the First Amendment. In this book, Tisa Wenger shows that cultural notions about what constitutes "religion" are crucial to public debates over religious freedom. In the 1920s, Pueblo Indian leaders in New Mexico and a sympathetic coalition of non-Indian reformers successfully challenged government and missionary attempts to suppress Indian dances by convincing a skeptical public that these ceremonies counted as religion. This struggle for religious freedom forced the Pueblos to employ Euro-American notions of religion, a conceptual shift with complex consequences within Pueblo life. Long after the dance controversy, Wenger demonstrates, dominant concepts of religion and religious freedom have continued to marginalize indigenous traditions within the United States
Year: 2009
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: OCLC
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: Publisher's website
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-0-8078-326
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes