Aboriginal Theology

I’m well on my way into a directed reading course that I have been dreaming up since early this year.  (This also accounts for my absence here). During the past winter semester I wasn’t taking any theology courses and I was craving something new and challenging, something I knew virtually nothing about (besides my own experiences with Native communities, about which I have written somewhat here and here and here), and something that was lacking in both academic and ecclesial communities — Aboriginal Theology.  I found a prof who would supervise the course from a different province (since I had a summer job secured in MB already) and put together a syllabus. After adding a few things, this is what we came up with. Conveniently we have made the major assignment of the course a conference paper (and its extended form) I will be giving at the Church & State conference in Belgrade in June hosted by the Ecclesial Investigations Network.  It’s definitely one of the most intellectually stimulating courses I have ever taken.  The only downside is that there is no classroom discussion, no seminars. But submitting reading reflections and getting a lot of feedback from the prof has been great.


TS 691, 003 – Topics: Aboriginal Theology
Directed Reading Course
Student: Melanie Kampen
Instructor: Jeremy Bergen
Spring/Summer 2013

Course Objectives
This course is designed to introduce the student to aspects of Aboriginal theology, broadly speaking.  Various themes will be covered including sovereignty, colonialism, liberation, landedness, race, identity, epistemology, ecclesiology, atonement/the cross, creation/ecology, ethics, healing, brokenness, violence, solidarity, peace, and justice.

Reading Reflections x4 – 750-1000 words, 30%
Major Paper/Conference Presentation –50%
-Research paper of about 20 pages
-Conference presentation of about 20 minutes
-various iterations
Conference/Course Reflection Paper – 2000 words, 20%

Description and Due Dates
Reading Reflections – may be submitted as completed, due August 1
You may choose to reflect on a single text or integrate a few different ones.  1/3 of the reflection should be summary/introduction of the arguments being made and 2/3 should be critical engagement (this can include evaluating the argument(s), using them to further your own proposal, questioning them, a combination of these, etc.).  Reading reflections may be submitted at any time throughout the semester but must be completed by the end of the course.

Major Paper/Conference Presentation
The purpose of this assignment is to focus in on the thought of one Aboriginal theologian or to identify a particular problem in/for aboriginal theology and to critically engage this with more in depth research.
The course requires a 20-page research paper, which may be an extended version of the conference presentation (6-7 pages).  The instructor will give feedback on drafts of either the paper itself or the conference presentation within a day or two of receiving them.  The final version of the paper should be submitted by August 1.

Course/Conference Reflection Paper – due August 8
The course reflection paper allows you to reflect on the course material over all or on the experience of presenting a paper at an academic conference. The paper is fairly open-ended but does require some critical integration of course materials.  It is a chance for you to make note of some significant questions that the course raised for you and how you have come to answer/approach these.  You might also want to note questions that remain that you want to explore further.
The conference reflection paper allows you to engage any questions that were raised during the presentation or by others afterwards as well as to reflect more generally on the place and role of Aboriginal theology in the Christian academy as you experienced it through the conference. If there was not a lot of engagement with your paper or the topic of Aboriginal theology at the conference you may choose to reflect on the course instead.


Tinker, George E. Political Theology and American Indian Liberation. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2004. 144 pp.

Budden, Chris. Following Jesus in Invaded Space: Doing Theology on Aboriginal Land.Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publishers, 2009. 190 pp.

Kidwell, Clara Sue, Homer Noley, and George E. Tinker. A Native American Theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001. 204 pp.

Alfred, Taiaiake. Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto. Don Mills, ON: OxfordUniversity Press, 2009. 145 pp.

Deloria, Vine, Jr. God is Red. 30th Anniversary Edition. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2004. 300 pp.

Castellano, Marlene Brant, Linda Archibald, and Mike DeGagné, eds. From Truth to Reconciliation: Transforming the Legacy of Residential Schools. Ottawa, ON: Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2008. [selections from, around 200 pp.]


Smith, Andrea. “Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and the Future of Native Feminist Theology.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 25, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 143-150.

Smith, Andrea. “Decolonization in Unexpected Places: Native Evangelicalism and the Rearticulation of Mission.” American Quarterly 62 (2010): 569-590.

Legge, Marilyn J. “Seeking ‘Right Relations’: How Should Churches Respond to Aboriginal Voices?” Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 22 (2002): 27-47.

MacDonald, Mark. “Indigenous and Anglican: A Truly Native Church Emerges in the Anglican Church of Canada.” In The Gospel After Christendom: New Voices , New Cultures, New Expressions. Ed. Ryan K. Bolger. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012.

Jacobs, Adrian. “The Meaning of the Two Ways.” In Native and Christian: Indigenous Voices on Religious Identity in the United States and Canada. Ed. James Treat. New York, NY: Routledge, 1996.


4 comments on “Aboriginal Theology

  1. I recognize Adrian Jacobs, but none of the others. Thanks for sharing; the coursework and conference sound very exciting!

  2. Daniel Camacho says:

    Thanks for sharing Kampen. This looks like a solid course. I’m not sure if you already know about this book, but are you familiar with “The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race” by Willie Jennings? It goes very well with your line of research (especially highlighting the doctrine of creation in relation to landedness and colonialism). It already looks like you’re covering lots of ground here…but just another thing to consider.

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