About IRT

Welcome !

Welcome to the webpage of Indigenous Religious Traditions (RE 190/ES 200), a course taught in the Religion Department at Colorado College by Bruce Coriell, who serves as College Chaplain. This course seeks to understand the importance of land, ceremony and identity in contemporary native spiritual traditions.

In 2013, much of our focus will be on the Lakota. Our visit to Pine Ridge-SD will be the inspiration for many of our reflections and resources collected here. We appreciate your interest and welcome your comments.

Blessings ~ Bruce

Course Purposes

1) To critically examine academic and popular treatments of indigenous religious traditions.

We will encounter a fascinating and suggestive literature, which seeks to understand native traditions in light of enduring questions about human religious experience. The question here is, “what can religious studies teach us about native cultures in the contemporary world?” While I am interested in reading for personal development, our first task is to understand a text on its own terms and to explore the distinctive worlds opened to us by the text. Only then, can appropriate analysis and critique occur.

2) To consider ways in which indigenous experience poses incisive questions for global religious traditions and the discipline of religious studies.

One temptation is to treat different tribal traditions alike or as a subset of universal human religious experience. Our visit to Pine Ridge, will allow us to concentrate on the particularity of one people and their culture. The question this raises for our course will be “in what ways does our focus on Lakota ways teach us about how we study religion?” Often, an examination of the exotic bears the most fruit when we allow it to challenge our notions of the familiar. By looking at beliefs and rituals outside of the mainstream of dominant culture, we challenge our unacknowledged historical and cultural provincialism that leads to an uncritical understanding of religion and spirituality.

3) To create a learning community, in which the opportunity to expand personal horizons fosters both inquiry and growth.

One of the most difficult and complex tasks in this course will be balancing critical reflection and genuine appreciation. I expect respect and sensitivity as we are invited to participate in ceremonies held sacred by individual hosts and their communities. Yet, I hope each of us will approach these activities with the inquiring mind of a scholar. This prospect suggests finding one’s place on the continuum between the extremes of unexamined romanticism and disdainful dismissal. Each of us has gifts to help us face this challenge together.



4 Responses to About IRT

  1. Harvey Uken says:

    I am Harvey Uken, an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.
    I presently am working as a Youth Counselor at the Red River Valley Juvenile Center in Crookston, MN.
    We have native children here, presently four, and they are interested in learning more about their culture. The staff here are also interested in learning about the childrens’ culture.
    I found your website and see many articles that would be helpful to my helping others. Howeve it appears that the website is password protected. Is there any chance of me being allowed access to this website. I understand this is University property and I can assure you I would use this information only for awareness purposes at work.
    Please let me know if this would be allowed or not.
    I appreciate your kind consideration in this matter. I will not be offended if you say no to my request. I would fully understand.

    Harvey Uken

  2. bcoriell says:


    Thanks for your kind words about the Indigenous Religious Traditions course website. More importantly, thanks for your important work with native youth. You mention the website being password protected. In fact, most of the website is open to the public. The only parts of the website password protected are articles that reveal personal information about the author that the student wishes to keep private. I hope you will understand.

    Please let me know if I can help in other ways.



  3. Carolyn Poissant says:

    HI Bruce,

    I am doing a paper on public policy regarding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and came across the lovely piece by Courtney Blackmer-Reynolds on the Gwich’in people, which was very enlightening. So many white Americans (European-descent Caucasians) lump “Native Americans” together like there are no distinctions. let alone differentiating the various tribes of Alaska and how they view the ANWR. My Canadian-French grandmother grew up among the Ojibwe of northern Minnesota and Michigan and she relayed to me an intense appreciation of nature, which I have tried to honor in my lifestyle and career as a landscape architect. I will enjoy reading many more of your students’ postings.

  4. Gary Harris says:

    We all have a great interest in the Lakota blue lake !

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