Year of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department or School/College
Tobin Miller Shearer
Kyle G. Volk, David Beck
Blackfeet, Pentecostal, Native, Religion, Montana, Reservation
University of Montana
History of Religion
This thesis charts the rise of Pentecostalism among the Blackfeet in and around Browning, Montana on the Blackfeet Reservation from 1940 through 1975. The Pentecostal message was first brought to the Blackfeet around 1940 by white ministers with the Assemblies of God from nearby Cut Bank, Montana. By 1965 the Blackfeet Pentecostal movement was led entirely by Blackfeet ministers, leading to the proliferation of the Pentecostal message among the tribe. The Pentecostal movement made tremendous inroads among the Blackfeet because of its emphasis on receiving dramatic power from a divine source. This experience of divine empowerment was both new, yet familiar to Blackfeet people.
This essay describes how Pentecostalism took root among the Blackfeet in the mid-twentieth century, a time of increased poverty, significant population migration, and difficult political turmoil on the Blackfeet reservation. This thesis argues that Pentecostalism exploded among the Blackfeet because of its dual emphasis on practitioners regularly receiving supernatural power and the commissioning of new leaders through divine calling. The promulgation of Pentecostalism among the Blackfeet was aided by their participation in a robust pan-Indian Pentecostal network, a Native religious innovation, which helped link Native Pentecostals from across the northwestern United States in training and mentoring relationships.
This thesis elevates the Native voices of both Pentecostal practitioners and non-Pentecostal Blackfeet in relating the narrative of the rise of Pentecostalism among the Blackfeet. In addition to an analysis of the economic and political factors that led to the promulgation of Pentecostalism among the Blackfeet, this essay also compares some of the similarities between Pentecostalism and traditional Blackfeet religion. It explains how two generations of Blackfeet Pentecostal converts dealt differently with the tensions that developed between Pentecostalism and traditional Native ways.
Barnett, Scott A., "A NEW AND FAMILIAR POWER: THE RISE OF PENTECOSTALISM AMONG THE BLACKFEET IN MONTANA, 1940-1975" (2018). Graduate Student Theses, Dissertations, & Professional Papers. 11206.
© Copyright 2018 Scott A. Barnett