Around the Sacred Fire is a cultural history of inter-tribal activism centred on the Indian Ecumenical Conference, an influencial movement among native people in Canada and the US during the Red Power era. Founded in 1969, the conference began as an attempt at organizing grassroots spiritual leaders who were concerned about the conflict between tribal and Christian traditions throughout Indian country. By the mid 70s thousands of people were gathering each summer in the foothills of the Rockies, where they participated in week-long encampments promoting spiritual revitalization and religious self determination. Virtually all historical overviews of native affairs in the 60s and 70s emphasize the prominence of the American Indian movement and the impact of highly publicized confrontations such as the rthwest coast fish-ins, the Alcatraz occupation and events at Wounded Knee. The Indian Ecumenical Conference is rarely mentioned in descriptions of this period and the only substantive scholarly study of the conference is a six-page essay published at the peak of its popularity. The conference played a central role in stimulating religious and cultural revitalization among native people, partly because conference leaders stategized for social change in ways that differed from the militant groups. Drawing on archival records, published accounts, oral histories and field research, James Treat has written a comprehensive study of this important but overlooked effort at post-colonial, inter-religious dialogue.
JAMES TREAT is Assistant Professor in the Honors College at the University of Oklahoma and has edited Native and Christian (Routledge 96), a selection of Vine Deloria Jr.'s writing. (Deloria, who's still alive, in an extremely prominent Native American educator and writer, and is the author of seminal red power books like God is Red and Custor Died for Your Sins). Treat's work on the Indian Ecumenical Conference has been supported by fellowships awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Academy of Religion, among other institutions.