Defend the Sacred: Native American Religious Freedom beyond the First Amendment

Presentation by Michael D. McNally, Ph.D.

Date & Time:

Wednesday, September 23, 2020
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM


free and open to the public


Online Virtual Event


This program is approved for 1.0 Standard Continuing Legal Education (CLE) unit (please provide your MN Lawyer ID with free registration)

Michael D. McNally, Ph.D.

Michael D. McNally, Ph.D.

From North Dakota’s Standing Rock encampments to Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks, Native Americans have repeatedly asserted legal rights to religious freedom to protect their sacred places, practices, objects, knowledge, and ancestral remains. But these claims have met with little success in court because Native American communal traditions don’t fit easily into modern Western definitions of religion. To articulate their claims, Native peoples have resourcefully used the languages of cultural resources under environmental and historic preservation law; of sovereignty under treaty-based federal Indian law; and, increasingly, of Indigenous rights under international human rights law. Along the way, Native nations still draw on the rhetorical power of religious freedom to gain legislative and regulatory successes beyond the First Amendment. In this presentation, which draws on his recently published book Defend the Sacred: Native American Religious Freedom beyond the First Amendment (Princeton University Press, 2020) and article "Native American Religious Freedom as a Collective Right" (BYU Law Review, 2019), Michael McNally will discuss how Native peoples have creatively turned to other legal means to safeguard what matters to them.

Michael D. McNally (Carleton, B.A.; Harvard Univ., M.Div., M.A., Ph.D.) is the John M. and Elizabeth W. Musser Professor of Religion at Carleton College. A 2017-18 Guggenheim Fellow, he is author of Defend the Sacred: Native American Religious Freedom beyond the First Amendment (Princeton University Press, 2020),  Honoring Elders: Aging, Authority, and Ojibwe Religion (Columbia University Press, 2009), and  Ojibwe Singers: Hymns, Grief, and a Native Culture in Motion (Oxford University Press, 2000,  MN Historical Society Press, 2009), and a number of book chapters, journal articles, and law review articles.

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