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What is the Ghost Dance in simple terms?
: a group dance of a late 19th century American Indian messianic cult believed to promote the return of the dead and the restoration of traditional ways of life.
How was the tragedy at Wounded Knee related to the Ghost Dance?
The conflict at Wounded Knee was originally referred to as a battle, but in reality it was a tragic and avoidable massacre. Whatever the motives, the massacre ended the Ghost Dance movement and was the last major confrontation in America’s deadly war against the Plains Indians.
What happened at Wounded Knee Massacre?
Wounded Knee Massacre, (December 29, 1890), the slaughter of approximately 150–300 Lakota Indians by United States Army troops in the area of Wounded Knee Creek in southwestern South Dakota. The massacre was the climax of the U.S. Army’s late 19th-century efforts to repress the Plains Indians.
Why was Ghost Dance banned?
Some traveled to the reservations to observe the dancing, others feared the possibility of an Indian uprising. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) eventually banned the Ghost Dance, because the government believed it was a precursor to renewed Native American militancy and violent rebellion.
What caused the Wounded Knee massacre?
Some historians speculate that the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at the Little Bighorn in 1876. Whatever the motives, the massacre ended the Ghost Dance movement and was the last major confrontation in America’s deadly war against the Plains Indians.
Is the Ghost Dance still done today?
The basis for the Ghost Dance is the circle dance, a traditional Native American dance. The Ghost Dance was first practiced by the Nevada Northern Paiute in 1889. The Caddo still practice the Ghost Dance today.
What was the Ghost Dance rebellion?
What was the ghost dance movement in 1890.
What was the siege at Wounded Knee?
What was the significance of Wounded Knee?
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Definition of Ghost Dance
Examples of ghost dance in a sentence.
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1876, in the meaning defined above
Dictionary Entries Near Ghost Dance
Cite this entry.
“Ghost Dance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Ghost%20Dance. Accessed 9 Oct. 2023.
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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about Ghost Dance
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The Native American Ghost Dance, a Symbol of Defiance
Religious Ritual Became a Symbol of Defiance By Native Americans
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The ghost dance was a religious movement that swept across Native American populations in the West in the late 19th century. What started as a mystical ritual soon became something of a political movement and a symbol of Native American resistance to a way of life imposed by the U.S. government.
A Dark Moment in History
As the ghost dance spread through western Native American reservations , the federal government moved aggressively to stop the activity. The dancing and the religious teachings associated with it became issues of public concern widely reported in newspapers.
As the 1890s began, the emergence of the ghost dance movement was viewed by white Americans as a credible threat. The American public was, by that time, used to the idea that Native Americans had been pacified, moved onto reservations, and essentially converted to living in the style of white farmers or settlers.
The efforts to eliminate the practice of ghost dancing on reservations led to heightened tensions which had profound effects. The legendary Sitting Bull was murdered in a violent altercation sparked by the crackdown on ghost dancing. Two weeks later, the confrontations prompted by the ghost dance crackdown led to the infamous Wounded Knee Massacre .
The horrific bloodshed at Wounded Knee marked the end of the Plains Indian Wars . The ghost dance movement was effectively ended, though it continued as a religious ritual in some places well into the 20th century. The ghost dance took a place at the end of a long chapter in American history, as it seemed to mark the end of Native American resistance to white rule.
Origins of the Ghost Dance
The story of the ghost dance began with Wovoka, a member of the Paiute tribe in Nevada. Wovoka, who was born about 1856, was the son of a medicine man. Growing up, Wovoka lived for a time with a family of white Presbyterian farmers, from whom he picked up the habit of reading the Bible every day.
Wovoka developed a wide-ranging interest in religions. He was said to be familiar with Mormonism and various religious traditions of native tribes in Nevada and California. In late 1888, he became quite ill with scarlet fever and may have gone into a coma.
During his illness, he claimed to have religious visions. The depth of his illness coincided with a solar eclipse on January 1, 1889, which was seen as a special sign. When Wovoka regained his health, he began to preach of knowledge which God had imparted to him.
According to Wovoka, a new age would dawn in 1891. The dead of his people would be restored to life. Game which had been hunted nearly to extinction would return. And the white people would vanish and stop afflicting the indigenous peoples.
Wovoka also said a ritual dance which had been taught to him in his visions must be practiced by native populations. This "ghost dance," which was similar to traditional round dances, was taught to his followers.
Decades earlier, in the late 1860s , during a time of privation among western tribes, there had been a version of the ghost dance which spread through the West. That dance also prophesied positive changes to come to the lives of Native Americans. The earlier ghost dance spread through Nevada and California, but when the prophecies did not come true, the beliefs and accompanying dance rituals were abandoned.
However, Wovoka's teachings based on his visions took hold throughout early 1889. His idea quickly spread along travel routes, and became widely known among the western tribes.
At the time, the Native American population was demoralized. The nomadic way of life had been curtailed by the U.S. government, forcing the tribes onto reservations. Wovoka's preaching seemed to offer some hope.
Representatives of various western tribes began to visit Wovoka to learn about his visions, and especially about what was becoming widely known as the ghost dance. Before long, the ritual was being performed across Native American communities, which were generally located on reservations administered by the federal government.
Fear of the Ghost Dance
In 1890, the ghost dance had become widespread among the western tribes. The dances became well-attended rituals, generally taking place over a span of four nights and the morning of the fifth day.
Among the Sioux, who were led by the legendary Sitting Bull , the dance became extremely popular. The belief took hold that someone wearing a shirt that was worn during the ghost dance would become invulnerable to any injury.
Rumors of the ghost dance began to instill fear among white settlers in South Dakota, in the region of the Indian reservation at Pine Ridge. Word began to spread that the Lakota Sioux were finding a fairly dangerous message in Wovoka's visions. His talk of a new age without whites began to be seen as a call to eliminate the white settlers from the region.
And part of Wovoka's vision was that the various tribes would all unite. So the ghost dancers began to be seen as a dangerous movement that could lead to widespread attacks on white settlers across the entire West.
The spreading fear of the ghost dance movement was picked up by newspapers, in an era when publishers such as Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were beginning to champion sensational news. In November 1890, a number of newspaper headlines across America linked the ghost dance to alleged plots against white settlers and U.S. Army troops.
An example of how white society viewed the ghost dance appeared in the form of a lengthy story in the New York Times with the subheadline, "How the Indians Work Themselves Up to a Fighting Pitch." The article explains how a reporter, led by friendly Indian guides, trekked overland to a Sioux camp. "The trip was extremely hazardous, owing to the frenzy of the hostiles." The article described the dance, which the reporter claimed to have observed from a hill overlooking the camp. 182 "bucks and squaws" participated in the dance, which took place in a large circle around a tree. The reporter described the scene:
"The dancers held on another's hands and moved slowly around the tree. They did not raise their feet as high as they do in the sun dance, most of the time it looked as though their ragged moccasins did not leave the ground, and the only idea of dancing the spectators could gain from the motion of the fanatics was the weary bending of the knees. Round and round the dancers went, with their eyes closed and their heads bent toward the ground. The chant was incessant and monotonous. 'I see my father, I see my mother, I see my brother, I see my sister," was Half Eye's translation of the chant, as the squaw and warrior moved laboriously about the tree. "The spectacle was as ghastly as it could be: it showed the Sioux to be insanely religious. The white figures bobbing between pained and naked warriors and the shrill yelping noise of the squaws as they tottered in grim endeavor to outdo the bucks, made a picture in the early morning which has not yet been painted or accurately described. Half Eyes says the dance which the spectators were then witnessing had been going on all night."
On the following day the other side of the country, the front-page story "A Devilish Plot" claimed that Indians on the Pine Ridge reservation planned to hold a ghost dance in a narrow valley. The plotters, the newspaper claimed, would then lure soldiers into the valley to stop the ghost dance, at which point they would be massacred.
In "It Looks More Like War," the New York Times claimed that Little Wound, one of the leaders at the Pine Ridge reservation, "the great camp of the ghost dancers," asserted that the Indians would defy orders to cease the dancing rituals. The article said the Sioux were "choosing their fighting ground," and preparing for a major conflict with the U.S. Army.
Role of Sitting Bull
Most Americans in the late 1800s were familiar with Sitting Bull, a medicine man of the Hunkpapa Sioux who was closely associated with the Plains Wars of the 1870s. Sitting Bull did not directly participate in the massacre of Custer in 1876, though he was in the vicinity, and his followers attacked Custer and his men.
Following the demise of Custer, Sitting Bull led his people into safety in Canada. After being offered amnesty, he eventually returned to the United States in 1881. In the mid-1880s, he toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, alongside performers like Annie Oakley.
By 1890, Sitting Bull was back in South Dakota. He became sympathetic to the movement, encouraged young Native Americans to embrace the spirituality espoused by Wovoka, and apparently urged them to take part in the ghost dance rituals.
The endorsement of the movement by Sitting Bull did not go unnoticed. As the fear of the ghost dance spread, what appeared to be his involvement only heightened tensions. The federal authorities decided to arrest Sitting Bull, as it was suspected he was about to lead a major uprising among the Sioux.
On December 15, 1890, a detachment of U.S. Army troops, along with Native Americans who worked as police officers on a reservation, rode out to where Sitting Bull, his family, and some followers were camped. The soldiers stayed at a distance while the police sought to arrest Sitting Bull.
According to news accounts at the time, Sitting Bull was cooperative and agreed to leave with the reservation police, but young Native Americans attacked the police. A shoot-out occurred, and in the gun battle, Sitting Bull was shot and killed.
The death of Sitting Bull was major news in the East. The New York Times published a story about the circumstances of his death on its front page, with subheadlines described him as an "old medicine man" and a "wily old plotter."
The ghost dance movement came to a bloody end at the massacre at Wounded Knee on the morning of December 29, 1890. A detachment of the 7th Cavalry approached an encampment of natives led by a chief named Big Foot and demanded that everyone surrender their weapons.
Gunfire broke out, and within an hour approximately 300 Native men, women, and children were killed. The treatment of the native peoples and the massacre at Wounded Knee signify a dark episode in American history . After the massacre at Wounded Knee, the ghost dance movement was essentially broken. While some scattered resistance to white rule arose in the following decades, the battles between Native Americans and whites in the West had ended.
Resources and Further Reading
- “ The Death of Sitting Bull .” New York Times , 17 Dec. 1890.
- “ It Looks More Like War .” New York Times , 23 Nov. 1890.
- “ The Ghost Dance .” New York Times , 22 Nov. 1890.
- “ A Devilish Plot .” Los Angeles Herald , 23 Nov. 1890.
- History of the Wounded Knee Massacre
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What was the Ghost Dance and why was it feared?
The Ghost Dance was associated with Wovoka’s prophecy of an end to white expansion while preaching goals of clean living, an honest life, and cross-cultural cooperation by Native Americans. Practice of the Ghost Dance movement was believed to have contributed to Lakota resistance to assimilation under the Dawes Act.
What is the Ghost Dance and what is its purpose?
The Ghost Dance was a spiritual movement that arose among Western American Indians. It began among the Paiute in about 1869 with a series of visions of an elder, Wodziwob. These visions foresaw renewal of the Earth and help for the Paiute peoples as promised by their ancestors.
Why did the Ghost Dance movement spread so quickly?
Why did the Ghost Dance movement spread so quickly in Native American reservations in the late 1880s and early 1890s? The dance fostered native peoples’ hope that they could drive away white settlers. … ruled that Congress could ignore all existing Indian treaties.
How many natives were killed at Wounded Knee?
150 Indians Wounded Knee: Conflict breaks out A brutal massacre followed, in which it’s estimated 150 Indians were killed (some historians put this number at twice as high), nearly half of them women and children. The cavalry lost 25 men.
Why was Ghost Dance banned?
Some traveled to the reservations to observe the dancing, others feared the possibility of an Indian uprising. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) eventually banned the Ghost Dance, because the government believed it was a precursor to renewed Native American militancy and violent rebellion.
When was the Ghost Dance banned?
Religious Crimes Code of 1883 bans Native dances, ceremonies. Congress bans all Native dancing and ceremonies, including the Sun Dance, Ghost Dance, potlatches, and the practices of medicine persons.
Why did the Ghost Dance end?
Scholars interpret the end of the dance as a result of the US government forcing tribes to stop, responding to the fears of those white settlers who saw it as a threat and tribes losing interest as the prophecies were not coming to pass.
How did the Ghost Dance evolve?
The Paiute tradition that led to the Ghost Dance began in the 1870s in the Western Great Basin from the visions of Wodziwob (Gray Hair) concerning earth renewal and the reintroduction of the spirits of ancient Numu (Northern Paiute) ancestors into the contemporary day to help them.
What was the Ghost Dance movement quizlet?
The ghost dance was a religious revitalization uniting Indians to restore ancestral customs, the disappearance of whites, and the return of buffalo.
How did the Ghost Dance spread?
The first Ghost Dance developed in 1869 around the dreamer Wodziwob (died c. 1872) and in 187173 spread to California and Oregon tribes; it soon died out or was transformed into other cults. The second derived from Wovoka (c. 18561932), whose father, Tavibo, had assisted Wodziwob.
What are the 7 Sioux tribes?
The Teton, also referred to as the Western Sioux, spoke Lakota and had seven divisionsthe Sihasapa, or Blackfoot; Brul (Upper and Lower); Hunkpapa; Miniconjou; Oglala; Sans Arcs; and Oohenonpa, or Two-Kettle.
Does the Sioux tribe still exist?
Today, the Sioux maintain many separate tribal governments scattered across several reservations, communities, and reserves in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Montana in the United States; and Manitoba, southern Saskatchewan, and Alberta in Canada.
Why is it called Wounded Knee?
Wounded Knee Creek is a tributary of the White River, approximately 100 miles (160 km) long, in Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota in the United States. … The creek’s name recalls an incident when a Native American sustained an injury to his knee during a fight.
Who was the leader of the Ghost Dance?
Wovoka Because forced assimilation had nearly destroyed Native American culture, some tribal leaders attempted to reassert their sovereignty and invent new spiritual traditions. The most significant of these was the Ghost Dance, pioneered by Wovoka, a shaman of the Northern Paiute tribe.
Which dance is the oldest institutionalized dance form?
bugaku The traditions of gagaku and bugaku are the oldest known surviving court dance and music in the world. Other court dances/musics, including the original influences on bugaku, have long since died out.
What did the US government do in response to the Ghost Dance?
The U.S. government violated treaties with American Indians and responded to resistance with military force, eventually confining American Indians to reservations and denying tribal sovereignty.
How long did Ghost Dance last?
Faithful dancing, clean living, peaceful adjustments with the whites, hard work, and following God’s chosen leaders would hasten the resurrection of dead relatives and the restoration of days of Indian prosperity. The ghost dance spread to the Great Plains in 1889 as a four-day round dance.
Graduated from ENSAT (national agronomic school of Toulouse) in plant sciences in 2018, I pursued a CIFRE doctorate under contract with Sun’Agri and INRAE in Avignon between 2019 and 2022. My thesis aimed to study dynamic agrivoltaic systems, in my case in arboriculture. I love to write and share science related Stuff Here on my Website. I am currently continuing at Sun’Agri as an R&D engineer.
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"When you get home you must begin a dance and continue for five days. Dance for four successive nights, and on the last night continue dancing until the morning of the fifth day, when all must bathe in the river and then return to their homes. You must all do this in the same way. I want you to dance every six weeks. Make a feast at the dance and have food that everybody may eat."
As news of Wounded Knee spread throughout the Native nations, the Ghost Dance died quickly. Wovoka's prophecies were empty; the land would not be returned from the white man through divine intervention. When it became obvious that ghost shirts did not protect their wearers from bullets, and the expected resurrection of the dead had not occurred, most believers quit the dance. With the suddenness of its birth, Ghost Dance disappeared. The Wounded Knee massacre put an end to the Ghost Dance as a widespread phenomenon. It was continued in several isolated places, but the expectation of the imminent return of the dead and of traditional culture was minimized. The last known Ghost Dances were held in the 1950s among the Shoshone. See Indian Wars Time Table .
Legends of America
Traveling through american history, destinations & legends since 2003., the ghost dance – a promise of fulfillment.
Ghost Dance of the Sioux, Illustrated in London News, 1891
The Ghost Dance (Natdia) is a spiritual movement that came about in the late 1880s when conditions were bad on Indian reservations and Native Americans needed something to give them hope. This movement found its origin in a Paiute Indian named Wovoka , who announced that he was the messiah come to earth to prepare the Indians for their salvation.
The Paiute tradition that led to the Ghost Dance began in the 1870s in the Western Great Basin from the visions of Wodziwob (Gray Hair) concerning earth renewal and the reintroduction of the spirits of ancient Numu (Northern Paiute) ancestors into the contemporary day to help them. Central to the Natdia religion was the dance itself – dancing in a circular pattern continuously – which induced a state of religious ecstasy.
The movement began with a dream by Wovoka (named Jack Wilson in English), a Northern Paiute, during the solar eclipse on January 1, 1889. He claimed that, in his dream, he was taken into the spirit world and saw all Native Americans being taken up into the sky and the Earth opening up to swallow all Whites and to revert back to its natural state. The Native Americans, along with their ancestors, were put back upon the earth to live in peace. He also claimed that he was shown that, by dancing the round-dance continuously, the dream would become a reality and the participants would enjoy the new Earth.
His teachings followed a previous Paiute tradition predicting a Paiute renaissance. Varying somewhat, it contained much Christian doctrine. He also told them to remain peaceful and keep the reason for the dance secret from the Whites. Wovoka’s message spread quickly to other Native American peoples and soon many of them were fully dedicated to the movement. Representatives from tribes all over the nation came to Nevada to meet with Wovoka and learn to dance the Ghost Dance and to sing Ghost Dance songs.
The dance as told by Wovoka went something like this: “When you get home you must begin a dance and continue for five days. Dance for four successive nights, and on the last night continue dancing until the morning of the fifth day when all must bathe in the river and then return to their homes. You must all do this in the same way. …I want you to dance every six weeks. Make a feast at the dance and have food that everybody may eat.”
The Natdia, it was claimed, would bring about the renewal of the native society and decline in the influence of the Whites.
Paiute Ghost Dance
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agents grew disturbed when they became aware that so many Indians were coming together and participating in a new and unknown event.
In early October 1890, Kicking Bear, a Minneconjou Sioux Indian, visited Sitting Bull at Standing Rock telling him of his visit to Wovoka. They told him of the great number of other Indians who were there as well, referring to Wovoka as the Christ.
And they told him of the prophecy that the next spring when the grass was high, the earth would be covered with new soil and bury all the white men. The new soil would be covered with sweetgrass, running water and trees and the great herds of buffalo and wild horses would return. All Indians who danced the Ghost Dance would be taken up into the air and suspended there while the new earth was being laid down. Then they would be returned to the earth along with the ghosts of their ancestors.
When the dance spread to the Lakota, the BIA agents became alarmed. They claimed that the Lakota developed a militaristic approach to the dance and began making “ghost shirts” they thought would protect them from bullets. They also spoke openly about why they were dancing. The BIA agent in charge of the Lakota eventually sent the tribal police to arrest Sitting Bull, a leader respected among the Lakota, to force him to stop the dance. In the struggle that followed, Sitting Bull was killed along with a number of policemen. A small detachment of cavalry eventually rescued the remaining policemen.
Wounded Knee Massacre
Following the killing of Sitting Bull, the United States sent the Seventh Cavalry to “disarm the Lakota and take control.” During the events that followed, now known as the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890, 457 U.S. soldiers opened fire upon the Sioux killing more than 200 of them. The Ghost Dance reached its peak just before the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.
When it became apparent that ghost shirts did not protect from bullets and the expected resurrection did not happen, most former believers quit the Ghost Dance. Wovoka, disturbed by the death threats and disappointed with the many reinterpretations of his vision, gave up his public speaking. However, he remained well-respected among his followers and continued his religious activities. He traveled and received visitors until the end of his life in 1932. There are still members of the religious movement today.
Believers in the Ghost Dance spirituality are convinced that performing the Ghost Dance will eventually reunite them with their ancestors coming by railway from the spirit world. The ancestor spirits, including the spirit of Jesus, are called upon to heal the sick and to help protect Mother Earth. Meanwhile, the world will return to a primordial state of natural beauty, opening up to swallow up all other people (those who do not have a strong spirituality based upon the earth). The performers of the Ghost Dance theoretically will float in safety above with their ancestors, family, and peoples of the world who follow the extensive spirituality.
1890 Observation and Description of the Ghost Dance:
Mrs. Z.A. Parker observed the Ghost Dance among the Lakota at Pine Ridge Reservation, Dakota Territory on June 20, 1890, and described it:
Ghost Dance Painting
We drove to this spot at about 10:30 o’clock on a delightful October day. We came upon tents scattered here and there in low, sheltered places long before reaching the dance ground. Presently we saw over three hundred tents placed in a circle, with a large pine tree in the center, which was covered with strips of cloth of various colors, eagle feathers, stuffed birds, claws, and horns-all offerings to the Great Spirit. The ceremonies had just begun. In the center, around the tree, were gathered their medicine-men; also those who had been so fortunate as to have had visions and in them had seen and talked with friends who had died. A company of 15 had started a chant and were marching abreast, others coming in behind as they marched. After marching around the circle of tents they turned to the center, where many had gathered and were seated on the ground.
I think they wore the ghost shirt or ghost dress for the first time that day. I noticed that these were all new and were worn by about seventy men and forty women. The wife of a man called Return-from-scout had seen in a vision that her friends all wore a similar robe, and on reviving from her trance she called the women together and they made a great number of the sacred garments. They were of white cotton cloth. The women’s dress was cut like their ordinary dress, a loose robe with wide, flowing sleeves, painted blue in the neck, in the shape of a three-cornered handkerchief, with moon, stars, birds, etc., interspersed with real feathers, painted on the waists, letting them fall to within three inches of the ground, the fringe at the bottom. In the hair, near the crown, a feather was tied. I noticed an absence of any manner of head ornaments, and, as I knew their vanity and fondness for them, wondered why it was. Upon making inquiries I found they discarded everything they could which was made by white men.
The ghost shirt for the men was made of the same material-shirts and leggings painted in red. Some of the leggings were painted in stripes running up and down, others running around. The shirt was painted blue around the neck, and the whole garment was fantastically sprinkled with figures of birds, bows and arrows, sun, moon, and stars, and everything they saw in nature.
Down the outside of the sleeve were rows of feathers tied by the quill ends and left to fly in the breeze, and also a row around the neck and up and down the outside of the leggings. I noticed that a number had stuffed birds, squirrel heads, etc., tied in their long hair. The faces of all were painted red with a black half-moon on the forehead or on one cheek.
As the crowd gathered about the tree the high priest, or master of ceremonies, began his address, giving them directions as to the chant and other matters. After he had spoken for about fifteen minutes they arose and formed in a circle. As nearly as I could count, there were between three and four hundred persons.
One stood directly behind another, each with his hands on his neighbor’s shoulders. After walking about a few times, chanting, “Father, I come,” they stopped marching, but remained in the circle, and set up the most fearful, heart-piercing wails I ever heard-crying, moaning, groaning, and shrieking out their grief, and naming over their departed friends and relatives, at the same time taking up handfuls of dust at their feet, washing their hands in it, and throwing it over their heads.
Finally, they raised their eyes to heaven, their hands clasped high above their heads, and stood straight and perfectly still, invoking the power of the Great Spirit to allow them to see and talk with their people who had died. This ceremony lasted about fifteen minutes, when they all sat down where they were and listened to another address, which I did not understand, but which I afterward learned were words of encouragement and assurance of the coming messiah.
When they arose again, they enlarged the circle by facing toward the center, taking hold of hands, and moving around in the manner of school children in their play of “needle’s eye.” And now the most intense excitement began. They would go as fast as they could, their hands moving from side to side, their bodies swaying, their arms, with hands gripped tightly in their neighbors’, swinging back and forth with all their might. If one, more weak and frail, came near falling, he would be jerked up and into position until tired nature gave way.
The ground had been worked and worn by many feet until the fine, flour-like dust lay light and loose to the depth of two or three inches. The wind, which had increased, would sometimes take it up, enveloping the dancers and hiding them from view. In the ring were men, women, and children; the strong and the robust, the weak consumptive, and those near to death’s door. They believed those who were sick would be cured by joining in the dance and losing consciousness. From the beginning they chanted, to a monotonous tune, the words:Father, I come;
Mother, I come;
Brother, I come;
Father, give us back our arrows.
All of which they would repeat over and over again until first one and then another would break from the ring and stagger away and fall down. One woman fell a few feet from me. She came toward us, her hair flying over her face, which was purple, looking as if the blood would burst through; her hands and arms moving wildly; every breath a pant and a groan; and she fell on her back, and went down like a log. I stepped up to her as she lay there motionless, but with every muscle twitching and quivering. She seemed to be perfectly unconscious. Some of the men and a few of the women would run, stepping high and pawing the air in a frightful manner. Some told me afterward that they had a sensation as if the ground were rising toward them and would strike them in the face. Others would drop where they stood. One woman fell directly into the ring, and her husband stepped out and stood over her to prevent them from trampling upon her. No one ever disturbed those who fell or took any notice of them except to keep the crowd away.
They kept up dancing until fully 100 persons were lying unconscious. Then they stopped and seated themselves in a circle, and as each recovered from his trance he was brought to the center of the ring to relate his experience. Each told his story to the medicine-man and he shouted it to the crowd. Not one in ten claimed that he saw anything. I asked one Indian, a tall, strong fellow, straight as an arrow-what his experience was. He said he saw an eagle coming toward him. It flew around and around, drawing nearer and nearer until he put out his hand to take it when it was gone. I asked him what he thought of it. “Big lie,” he replied. I found by talking to them that not one in 20 believed it. After resting for a time they would go through the same performance, perhaps three times a day. They practiced fasting, and every morning those who joined in the dance were obliged to immerse themselves in the creek. – Z.A. Parker, 1890.
Ghost Dance of the Cheyenne and Arapaho
© Kathy Weiser / Legends of America , updated February 2020.
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The Father Comes Singing
There is the father coming, There is the father coming. The father says this as he comes, The father says this as he comes, “You shall live,” he says as he comes, “You shall live,” ‘he says as he comes .
– Sioux Ghost Dance Song
Ghost Dance Religious Movement Essay (Critical Writing)
The ghost dance is a religious movement that was started by Native Americans in 1890. The circle dance formed the belief systems of the Native Americans and was later given the name the ghost dance (Maclean and Paul 12). This religion spread to western states of the US including California and Oklahoma. This research paper will discus about the ghost dance.
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Jack Wilson also known as Wovoka by the Paiute people, was the founder of the ghost dance religion. Jack Wilson was born in the Smith valley around Southeast Carson in Nevada in 1856. Wilson worked in the ranch where he leaned English and Christian religion. He was known as Wovoka by his people but used the name Jack Wilson when dealing with the whites.
He was a young leader who wanted to become a weather doctor just like his father (Maclean and Paul 17). As a young person, he saw several visions but he had difficulties interpreting them. When his father discovered that his son had problems to interpret visions, he took him to be trained by a holy man. The Christian religion influenced Wilson ideas.
The ghost dance religion emerged as a resistance of the efforts by the white Americans to assimilate the Native Americans and abolish their religious beliefs. The movement came forward when Jack Wilson had a vision during a solar eclipse in 1889. In his vision, God showed Wilson a beautiful land that was full of animals.
God sent Wilson back to his people to tell them about the beautiful land. In fact, Wilson urged his people to go to the beautiful land. However, it was a requirement that people must love each other, be honest, and abandon the bad culture of body mutilation and mourning the dead. By doing so, God would unite them with their loved ones in paradise (Maclerran and Paul 23).
As a spiritual leader, God told Jack Wilson that if people agreed to perform the ghost dance they would be cleansed and be united with the loved ones in paradise. After this vision, Jackson proceeded over circle dances and traveled to different places urging people to love each other. Indeed, the ghost dance movement believed in the coming of a new world without suffering and pain. Members of this movement believed that all white Americans would die (Maclerran and Paul 16).
Wovoka the creator of the ghost dance talked of a new world and coming of the Messiah. From a theological point of view, the prophecy made by Wovoka had no tribal basis. The message and the ritual practices were made in a quest to create hope.
The message talked about the abolition of oppression. The message of a new beginning, happiness, rising of the dead and a new life for the righteous people is also found in the book of revelation. It is believed that Wovoka’s Christian upbringing in David Wilson’s home contributed to his teachings (Maclerran and Paul 20).
The Native Americans were not ready to change their lifestyle as per the government instructions. They abandoned everything and spent all their time performing the ghost dance with the belief that the whites would die. The government tried several ways to distract them from the ghost dance but it became impossible and tension started building up (Erdoes and John 27).
Generally, the ghost dance religion talked about the coming of the Messiah who would punish the white people because of their sins. For this reason, the government of the US became impatient with the Native Americans and sent troops to relocate and disarm the Dakota people particularly those who refused to stop the ghost dance (Erdoes and John 18). The troops shot unarmed Dakota people on the plains of the Wounded Knee pine ridge killing 290 people. This incident marked the end of the ghost dance religion.
Erdoes, Richard and John Fire. Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions . New York: Simon Schuster, 1994. Print.
Maclerran, Alice and Paul Morin. The Ghost Dance . Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001. Print.
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IvyPanda. (2022, May 3). Ghost Dance Religious Movement. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ghost-dance/
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1. IvyPanda . "Ghost Dance Religious Movement." May 3, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ghost-dance/.
IvyPanda . "Ghost Dance Religious Movement." May 3, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ghost-dance/.
IvyPanda . 2022. "Ghost Dance Religious Movement." May 3, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ghost-dance/.
IvyPanda . (2022) 'Ghost Dance Religious Movement'. 3 May.
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