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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Basin Religion and Theology: A Comparative Study of Power (Puha)


The Great Basin has been the focus of keen anthropological interest for some time, primarily because the efficient simplicity of societies indigenous to the region reveals much about the persistence, stamina, and ingenuity that people need to survive in a strenuous environment. The major concern of Basin studies has been with ecological theory, but these have all but ignored the traditional ideology that was the basis of native lifeways. Aside from some important contributions to general ethnography, cultural ecology in the Basin has dealt with ecology to the virtual exclusion of culture. Recently, with the possible deployment of the MX missile, the mining of subsurface minerals, and the expansion of energy transmission systems, Basin religious sites have been destroyed or threatened at an alarming rate, much as local food resources were destroyed over a century ago by settlers and livestock (Andrus 1979; Hartigan 1980; Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada 1976a, 1976b, 1976c). For this reason, an overview of Basin religion and theology has been greatly needed, one which treats the published information in a systematic fashion with the cooperation of native peoples. This study is a preliminary step in this direction.

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