Native American Freemasonry

Native American Freemasonry

Associationalism and Performance in America

Joy Porter

368 pages
14 illustrations


November 2011


$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Freemasonry has played a significant role in the history of Native Americans since the colonial era—a role whose extent and meaning are fully explored for the first time in this book. The work’s overarching concern is with how Masonry met specific social and personal needs, a theme developed across three significant periods of membership: the revolutionary era, the last third of the nineteenth century, and the years following the First World War. Joy Porter places Freemasonry into historical context, revealing its social and political impact as a transatlantic phenomenon at the heart of the colonizing process. She then explores its meaning for many of the key Native leaders over time, for the ethnic groups who sought to make connections with it, and for the bulk of its American membership—the white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant middle class.

Porter contends that Freemasonry offered special access to Native Americans through its performance of ritual, an assertion borne out by a wealth of contemporary manuscripts, newspapers, pamphlets, Masonic sermons, orations, and lodge records and writings by Masonic historians and antiquarians gleaned from archives in New York, Philadelphia, Oklahoma, California, and London. Through these documents, she demonstrates that over time, Freemasonry became a significant avenue for the exchange, and perhaps even cocreation, of cultural forms by Indians and non-Indians.

Author Bio

Joy Porter is an associate dean and senior lecturer at Swansea University in Wales. She is the coauthor of Competing Voices from Native America: Fighting Words and the coeditor of The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature.


"Joy Porter's book on freemasonry among American Indians deepens our understanding of how an institution once seen solely as elitist and secret could be used to give meaning to native American spiritual beliefs and social activism. It joins a growing scholarly literature that is changing the way we view freemasonry as well as our understanding of Indian Americans. A triumph of scholarship!"—Margaret C. Jacob, Distinguished Professor of History, UCLA

"Native American Freemasonry provides an important insight into how Native and European Americans made use of Masonic space for mutual recognition, acceptance, and cultural exchange and how popular notions of "Nativeness" were exploited within the context of American fraternalism."—Bro. Robert Blackburn, Rising Point

"This elegantly written book has much to recommend it. It is meticulously documented and is based on archival and secondary sources housed in major Masonic libraries in cities on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The book serves as a metric for studies of Native Americans and of other minority groups who have participated in Freemasonry. . . . [Native American Freemasonry] breaks new ground and should be read by both historians and general readers."—R. William Weisberger, Journal of American History

"Porter's work, grounded on a familiarity with the vast literature on "secret" fraternal organizations, is thoughtful and sophisticated."—Alan Garrison, Pacific Historical Review

"A unique study."—Emily E. Auer, Canadian Journal of Native Studies

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



A Note on Terms

1. Approaching Native American Freemasonry, Part One

2. Approaching Native American Freemasonry, Part Two

3. A History of Freemasonry: From Europe to the United States

4. Freemasonry as Ornamentalism: Class, Race, and Social Hierarchy

5. The Attractions of Freemasonry to Indians and Others, Part One

6. The Attractions of Freemasonry to Indians and Others, Part Two

7. Native American Freemasons: The Revolutionary Era

8. Native American Freemasons: The "Settlement" of the West and the Civil War Era

9. Native American Freemasons: The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

10. On Television's Deathblow to Fraternalism: Understanding Associationalism and the Declining Role of Fraternalism in American Life




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