Date of Graduation

Spring 2011

Degree

Master of Arts in Religious Studies

Department

Religious Studies

Committee Chair

Martha Finch

Keywords

Diné, Navajo, becoming Bahá'í, conversion, eschatological narratives

Subject Categories

Religion

Abstract

Most American Indians have remained traditional to their cultural belief systems and have not converted to an outside religious system without prior coercions of some sort, historically embedded in the colonization effect. Yet in 1962 over three hundred Navajos, or, more correctly, Dine Indians, became members of a little-known eastern religion, the Baha'i Faith. I argue that those Dine became Bahai for three primary reasons: 1) the new religion's theology fulfilled ancient Dine prophecies; 2) its teachings applied through its institutions provided autonomy and empowered Dine Baha'is individually and as a people; and 3) through the religion's principle of the protection of culture, Dine Baha'is can practice most of their traditional ways without opposition or disapproval from non-Dine Baha'is. The Dine have two oral prophecies that Dine Baha'is believe are fulfilled by the new religion. I examine those narratives from a religious, psychological, anthropological, and sociological standpoint in the historical context of the impact that the Dine's Long Walk and imprisonment at Bos Redondo (1863-1868) had on the Dine, and subsequent federal mandates on Dine culture that included the boarding school system of education and the failed sheep/land policies—both of which may have provided impetus for consideration of the new religion. Methodology include archival research at the National Bahai Archives in Wilmette, Illinois, and ethnographic fieldwork on the Navajo Reservation from 2007-2009.

Copyright

© Linda Sue Covey

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