Native Americans and the Christian Right

The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances

Native Americans and the Christian Right

Book Pages: 400 Illustrations: 1 table Published: April 2008

Author: Andrea Smith

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Native and Indigenous Studies, Religious Studies

In Native Americans and the Christian Right, Andrea Smith advances social movement theory beyond simplistic understandings of social-justice activism as either right-wing or left-wing and urges a more open-minded approach to the role of religion in social movements. In examining the interplay of biblical scripture, gender, and nationalism in Christian Right and Native American activism, Smith rethinks the nature of political strategy and alliance-building for progressive purposes, highlighting the potential of unlikely alliances, termed “cowboys and Indians coalitions” by one of her Native activist interviewees. She also complicates ideas about identity, resistance, accommodation, and acquiescence in relation to social-justice activism.

Smith draws on archival research, interviews, and her own participation in Native struggles and Christian Right conferences and events. She considers American Indian activism within the Promise Keepers and new Charismatic movements. She also explores specific opportunities for building unlikely alliances. For instance, while evangelicals’ understanding of the relationship between the Bible and the state may lead to reactionary positions on issues including homosexuality, civil rights, and abortion, it also supports a relatively progressive position on prison reform. In terms of evangelical and Native American feminisms, she reveals antiviolence organizing to be a galvanizing force within both communities, discusses theories of coalition politics among both evangelical and indigenous women, and considers Native women’s visions of sovereignty and nationhood. Smith concludes with a reflection on the implications of her research for the field of Native American studies.


Native Americans and the Christian Right builds a convincing agenda to think outside an either-or political paradigm and continues a long-standing quest to document the internal plurality of social movements.” — Amin Ghaziani, American Journal of Sociology

Native Americans and the Christian Right is a bold fusion of activism and scholarship that aims to reshape the ways in which Natives and Christians think about one another, targeting as its end political coalitions that recognize commonalities while rejecting insistence on complete ideological conformity among allies.” — Jefferson D. Slagle, Cithara

“For those wanting to explore Evangelical and Native American stereotypes and partnerships in activism, Smith’s book works well. If the desire is to plum the depths of hegemonic authority in the creation of those stereotypes, Smith’s book is a wonderfully honest discussion.” — Terry LeBlanc and Jeanine Lowe LeBlanc, Pneuma

“I think it safe to say that as American Indian studies continues to grow as an academic field, Smith’s voice will often be heard shaping the conversation. I look forward to hearing what she has to say in the future.” — David Martinez, American Indian Quarterly

“People who are interested in understanding how rethinking the politics of alliances can further the goals of Native American studies programs and Native activists will find this book insightful. Native Americans and the Christian Right is also sure to stimulate further conversation on the benefits and dangers of building alliances with those whose political positions are different from our own.” — Michelene Pesantubbee, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

“The topics Smith addresses are some of the most controversial issues facing Native political activists making this work all the more engaging, debatable, and necessary,” — Melissa Olson, The Circle: News from an American Indian Perspective

“The well-chosen cases presented here succeed in challenging readers’ assumptions about the boundaries of social movements and identities. It may be that not all of the reframings here will convince all readers, but reading this book opens new ways of thinking about issues and alliances.”
— Mary Jo Neitz, Journal of American Ethnic History

“This volume goes far beyond the rather narrow boundaries of religion and spirituality, and explores the intersections of religion with critical social theory, feminism, the politics of race, Native sovereignty, prison reform. . .the list goes on and on.” — Heather Devine, Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Native Americans and the Christian Right is an exciting and important project, one that can be improved by further research and the collection of more stories and accounts of effective change. It is written to encourage that very enterprise.” — Laurel C. Schneider, Contemporary Sociology

Native Americans and the Christian Right is an indispensible treatise on the radical relevance of indigenous criticism to interdisciplinary theory and all social movements. . . . Smith notably advances indigenous feminism not simply by reading ‘gender’ in indigenous politics but by engaging both indigenous and settler politics with indigenous feminist methodologies of alliance work for social change.” — Scott Lauria Morgensen, Signs

“[A] fascinating and complex argument. . . . Native Americans and the Christian Right is a brave, provocative book. . . . Together with—as well as apart from—the political agenda of the book, Smith’s work presents a powerful analysis of social formation and identity articulation. She persuasively illustrates the ways contemporary Christian and Native groups alike are constituted by parties with varying and variable interests that may align with those of unlikely allies in surprising and telling ways.” — Greg Johnson, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

“In refusing to accept the typical explanations for the motivations of both groups, Smith enriches and challenges the reader to probe deeper into these “unlikely alliances” and offers up ideas for political activism, as well as new ways to understand the deeper issues of race and gender within social and political activism. Her work challenges scholars to re-think how they construct identity, Native peoples, gender, social activism, Native Christianity, and sovereignty. This book is clearly aimed at future scholar-activists who want to envision a new form of progressive organizing that goes beyond the current model, but it is also immensely useful to scholars of Native, religious, and gender studies who are thinking about different theoretical models for how to address complicated alliances and identities within their own work.” — Angela Tarango, Religious Studies Review

“Smith contributes a shrewdly innovative and theoretically ambitious analysis that transforms scholarship about progressive organizing and politics with her new insights on Native women organizing and theory, Christian Right arguments, and the intersections of ideas and interests that often are overlooked in western history.” — Myla Vicenti Carpio, Western Historical Quarterly

“Not many scholars could even imagine bringing together Native women activists with the Christian Right, but Andrea Smith manages to do so with the sort of intellectual integrity that has become a hallmark of her work. Even when I disagree with her conclusions I can’t help but get swept up in the sheer joy and hope of the journey she imagines.” — Robert Warrior, author of The People and the Word: Reading Native Nonfiction

“This is an amazing book that debunks many widely held beliefs about identity, Native activism, evangelical Christianity, sovereignty, and organizing. Andrea Smith’s analysis flows from race, to gender, to class, to nation, to income, to sexuality, to religion, and back to race in such a way that crude approximations of ideology or other notions of identity or consciousness are laid to rest. She has written an energetic and complicated work that will become an instant classic in Native studies, ethnic studies, religion, and feminist and gender studies.” — Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Andrea Smith is Assistant Professor of American Culture and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is the author of Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, the editor of The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, and a coeditor of Color of Violence: Violence Against Women of Color. She is a cofounder of the national activist organization INCITE! Women of Color against Violence.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

Acknowledgments xxxvii

Introduction: Why Rearticulation Matters 1

1. Set the Prisoners Free: The Christian Right and the Prison Industrial Complex 9

2. "The One Who Did Not Break His Promises": Native Nationalisms and the Christian Right 74

3. Without Apology": Native American and Evangelical Feminisms 115

4. Unlikely Allies: Rethinking Coalition Politics 200

5. Native Women and Sovereignty: Beyond the Nation-State 255

Conclusion 272

Appendix 1. A Brief Map of Christian Right and Native American Organizing 277

Appendix 2. Interviewees and Dates of Interviews 291

Bibliography 293

Index 351
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4163-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4140-6
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