Drowning Gods and Developing Prayer Sites

Termination, Reclamation, Religious Freedom, and Financial Independence in Navajoland, 1947-1980
Center for American Indian Studies Programs
American Indian Studies Seminar Series
Thursday, February 24, 2011

5:30 - 6:30 pm

TFL

Erika Bsumek, University of Texas

In 1974, eight Navajo singers filed a lawsuit, Badoni v. Higgenson, against the National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation alleging that Lake Powell threatened Navajo religious sites and that tourists visiting the Lake often desecrated sacred spaces and impeded Navajo access to the Rainbow Bridge, thereby limiting Navajos’ freedom of religion in the process.  This paper asserts that before we can fully understand the ramifications of the Badoni case we must examine the debates surrounding the cultural and economic development of the region, the diverse religious heritages of its inhabitants, and the varying strategies different groups used to control  regional water resources.  Starting with the premise that Termination and Reclamation were actually more than concurrent legislative proposals, this paper shows that that these policies were interconnected and pushed forward by Mormon politicians. To explore such connections, this paper explores the importance of Native Americans in Mormon theology and focuses attention on Navajo responses to Termination and Reclamation, exploring how Navajos attempted to navigate a complex web of religious, political, and environmental ideologies in an attempt to foster economic growth on the reservation.

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