The American West has always been home to many deities, argues Jennifer Graber in The Gods of Indian Country: Religion and the Struggle for...

The American West has always been home to many deities, argues Jennifer Graber in The Gods of Indian Country: Religion and the Struggle for the American West (Oxford University Press, 2018). Graber, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Texas-Austin, tells the story of the Kiowa over the course of the long nineteenth century. For Kiowas, the continuation of well-established spiritual beliefs and practices sustained them in the face of great challenges, but at times these same elements were dynamic enough to change and adapt to fit new realities. Among the new realities were alliances with powerful neighbors such as the Comanche, with whom the Kiowa shared the Sun Dance ritual. Another was a growing rivalry and at times widespread bloodshed with Americans, whose Christian missionaries fought as much amongst themselves as they did for Native converts. Missionaries often operated under the guise of being “friends of the Indian,” even when their purposes were ultimately dispossession and cultural erasure. The Gods of Indian Country is a deep look at how one Native American society and their settler colonial conquerors  relied upon faith in the face of both success and failure, joy and sorrow, in a rapidly changing West.


Stephen Hausmann is a doctoral candidate at Temple University and Visiting Instructor of history at the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently writing his dissertation, a history of race and the environment in the Black Hills and surrounding northern plains region of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.

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