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McNally receives Guggenheim Fellowship

April 11, 2017 at 10:46 am

Michael McNally ’85, professor of religion at Carleton College, has won a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in support of his forthcoming book on Native American legal rights, including those at the forefront of the current Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s fight against an oil pipeline.

Established in 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowships are widely viewed as the most prestigious award in American scholarly life. Fellowships are awarded only to well-established, well-respected scholars, scientists, and artists. This year, the foundation awarded 173 Fellowships, out of a pool of about 3,000 applications.

His book, Native American Religious Freedom Beyond the First Amendment, explores how Native communities resourcefully seek legal protections for sacred places, practices, objects, knowledge, and ancestral remains that are not easily assimilated into the legal category of religion. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe example, McNally says, shows a compelling narrative of “defending the sacred” from a pipeline’s threats to land and waters, and also the difficulty of articulating legally effective claims to the sacred in the available technical discourses of historic preservation and environmental law. The book explores the remarkable stories behind such urgent claims, and takes stock of the implications of their articulation in various fields of law to inform discussions about religious freedom, the cultural history of religion, and the vitality of indigenous religions today.

McNally is the fourth Carleton faculty member to earn a Guggenheim Fellowship, joining legendary religion professor Ian Barbour (1967); Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities and Composer-In-Residence, Emeritus Philip Rhodes (1979); and Adeeb Khalid (2005); the Jane and Raphael Bernstein Professor of Asian Studies and History.

McNally is author of Ojibwe Singers: Hymns, Grief and a Native Culture in Motion (Oxford U Press, 2000; Minn. Hist. Soc. Press, 2009), Honoring Elders: Aging, Authority, and Ojibwe Religion (Columbia U. Press, 2009), and editor of The Art of Tradition: Sacred Music, Dance & Myth of Michigan's Anishinaabe (Michigan State U. Press, 2009). He has also published book chapters and articles in American QuarterlyAmerican Indian QuarterlyChurch History, and the Journal of Law and Religion. His work has received recognition through fellowships with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, and the Mellon New Directions Fellowship, which supported a period of targeted legal studies training that launched this current project.

The Board of Trustees of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation approved the awarding of 173 Guggenheim Fellowships to a diverse group of scholars, artists, and scientists. Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Foundation’s ninety-third competition.

“It’s exciting to name 173 new Guggenheim Fellows. These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best,” Edward Hirsch, president of the Foundation, said. “Each year since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue to do so with this wonderfully talented and diverse group. It’s an honor to be able to support these individuals to do the work they were meant to do.”

Since its establishment in 1925, the Foundation has granted more than $350 million in Fellowships to over 18,000 individuals, among whom are scores of Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, Turing Award winners, poets laureate, members of the various national academies, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, and other important, internationally recognized honors.

For more information on the Fellows and their projects, please visit the Foundation’s website at