Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Remove, return, remember: Making Ute land religion in the American West
by Denison, Brandilyn, Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2011, 253; 3477541
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation narrates the development of cultural memories of nineteenth-century clashes between Ute Indians and whites in the American West. Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Utes and non-Utes memorialized, in a variety of ways, the violence that led to Ute Removal from western Colorado. Within this history of violence, removal, and remembrance, Utes and non-Utes framed nineteenth-century encounters with religious beliefs and practices. Within the setting of the American West, land and its use figured prominently in these encounters and remembrances. By focusing on contact between one tribe, this dissertation grounds scholars in a localized history that mirrors a national narrative of conflict, loss, and reconciliation. The study interrogates the way in which white and American Indian societies have employed religious and nonreligious identities, notions of history and progress, and the elusive specter of memory in order to claim the land. Using archival sources, newspapers, oral histories, popular literature, and field observations, it models a way for scholars to incorporate American Indian history more fully into the narrative of American religious history.

Furthermore, this study argues that modernist definitions of religion have legitimated white ownership of the land, to the exclusion of American Indian ownership of it. Through this history, the development of religious identities among Utes and non-Utes hinged on an understanding of religion that excluded aspirations for political or economic gain. Instead, Utes and their non-Ute allies represented Ute religiosity by its lack of material or political desires. Although scholars have long noted the relationship between economics and religion, this study demonstrates the way in which academic and popular descriptions of Ute religion in the twentieth century relied on definitional boundaries that excluded economics. Through the history of contact between whites and Utes as well as twenty-first century developments in the cultural memory of nineteenth-century contact, we see the processes through which popular representations of religion became “purified” of economics.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Maffly-Kipp, Laurie
Commitee: Marr, Timothy, Perdue, Theda, Styers, Randall, Wacker, Grant
School: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department: Religious Studies
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 73/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, American studies, Native American studies
Keywords: American West, Land, Native American religions, Nature religion, North American religions, Theories of religion, Ute, Ute Indians
Publication Number: 3477541
ISBN: 9781124942155
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