Academic Programs 

 The Religious Experience of Indigenous People (RS-615)
Winter/Spring 2006

This course will examine the kinds of religious experience found among some indigenous (or native aboriginal) peoples. The primary objective of the course is to give the student an appreciation of some of the major forms of religious experience displayed in indigenous cultures and how this has shaped their societies throughout history. Particular attention will be paid to the relation of the religious and cultural experience of indigenous peoples to that of Euro-American peoples and culture during modern times. A variety of methods for studying religion will be employed including perspective from sociology and contemporary films. Religion of peoples from North America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand will be included.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 9:20 p.m., beginning February 2

Kevin Ward
Adjunct Professor in Religion and Society and Acting Principal School of Ministry, Knox College, Dunedin, New Zealand

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500


Course Syllabus

Please note: this is a preliminary version of the syllabus and may be subject to modifications.

Course Aims

  • To introduce the student to religious and cultural traditions differing from his or her own.
  • To examine the religious traditions of selected indigenous peoples in their historical and cultural setting
  • To observe the religious situation of native people in the modern world and their presence in Euro-American peoples.

Learning Outcomes

  • At the end of the course students will have an appreciation of some of the major forms of religious experience found in a selection of indigenous cultures and how this experience has shaped their societies.
  • At the end of the course students will have appreciated a range of perspectives from which religions other than their own can be viewed.
  • At the end of the course students will have a better understanding of the complex relationship which exists between indigenous religions and modern Euro-American culture.

Course Assessment

  • Full participation in classroom discussion
  • An oral presentation to the class based on assigned readings on a selected topic.
  • A fifteen page (double spaced) paper on a topic related to the subject matter of the course, and agreed upon by the student and professor. The paper should combine insights from readings and lectures along with personal reflections by the student.

Text books

Bahr, Ann Marie Indigenous Religions. Philadephia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2005.

Harvey , Graham Indigenous Religions: A Companion. New York: Cassell, 2000.

Recommended reading

Harvey Graham Readings in Indigenous Religions. New York: Continuum, 2002

Beck, Peggy V. & Walters, Anna L. The Sacred: Ways of Knowledge, Sources of Life. Arizona: Dine

College Press, 1977.

Gill, Sam Native American Religions: An Introduction. California: Wadsworth, 1982

Ray, Benjamin C. African religions: symbol, ritual and community. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Mbiti, John, S. Introduction to African Religion (2 nd Ed). New Haven: Heinemann, 1991.

Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500