Praying against settler colonialism: Catherine E. McKinley, ‘”Prayer is universal”: How integrative faith practices enable Indigenous peoples’ persistence and resistance to transcend historical oppression’, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2023


Abstract: Indigenous faith practices have enabled persistence, resistance, and transcendence despite centuries of settler colonial historical oppression. Spirituality, ceremony, and religious practices are fundamental aspects of Indigenous wellness, resilience, and liberation from a colonial mindset. The purpose of this research was to understand U.S. Indigenous peoples’ perspectives of spirituality and religion from the settler colonial framework of historical oppression, resilience, and transcendence as it relates to wellness. Data from critical ethnographic interviews with 31 participants from rural reservation communities in the Southeast and an urban Northwest environment were analyzed using reconstructive thematic qualitative analysis. Themes include (a) “You’d be persecuted … for your beliefs”: historical oppression of Indigenous beliefs; (b) “I was always told that church was wherever you were”: integrative faith practices; and (c) “No matter how hard times get … never forget to pray”: prayer through adversity. Results clarified how settler colonial power differentials tended to relegate Indigenous spiritual and faith practices to a lower status than Western European religions, namely Christianity. Participants resisted this oppression by ingeniously integrating tribal and Western European faith practices to promote wellness. This article provides pathways to prevent clinical bias and harm by expanding awareness and familiarity with localized and heterogeneous faith practices among Indigenous communities. Practitioners can honor Indigenous peoples’ preferences, acknowledge Indigenous faith practices as central for wellness. They can become reflexive about how an internalized settler “colonial mindset” may cause bias and perpetuate historical oppression by delegitimizing Indigenous worldviews and faith practices.

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