Spirit Dance - Ghost Dance
By 1889 it was clear to most Americans that the huge land out West once seemingly everlasting were closing in. In the few years remaining before all their land was taken some native Americans would try to dream, dance & pray their way back to the old life. But even that would prove too threatening to the many settlers & Ranchers living on Indian land. In the last days of December 1890 400 years of hatred, bloodshed and incompatible dreams would come to a terrible tragedy in South Dakota, at a place called Wounded Knee.
"Suddenly there was a fear that all these leaders that had fought these wars were still here. Sitting Bull was still here, Red Cloud...many of these people that had fought at the Little Big Horn, had been around the Powder River were still here. Who knows what they would do?" CHARLOTTE BLACK ELK.
After years of lies from government officials in Washington, the Indians living at the reservations in Dakota were of dying of disease & hunger. Its was in the summer of 1889 that Kicking Bear a warrior & friend of Crazy Horse came to the reservations with a new religion The Ghost Dance from a holy man named Wovoka living in Western Nevada. Wovoka had a vision God told him that he would rescue all the Indian people from their misery. An Indian messiah was advancing from the West. If the Indian people avoided violence , if they were honest & peaceful and if they danced the sacred dance- The Ghost Dance - they would create a new world. Then all the whites would disappear from their lands, all the dead ancestors would come back to life & the buffalo would return.
The Ghost dance religion spread fast through the most of the reservations in Dakota / Montana. At Pine Ridge reservation The Lakota dances began far away from the agents, the people came in the hundreds and prayed & danced all day. Dancing around a scared tree from the Sundance, following the sun through the day, some of the dancers wore sacred garments called Ghost Shirts which Kicking Bear assured them bullets would not hurt people who wear the shirt. Joining hands the dancers shuffled in great circles dancing for hours non stop, Exhaustion brought with it visions of reunion with loved ones & their return. The People are coming home.
The Doctrine of the Ghost Dance
You must not tight. Do no harm to anyone. Do right always.— FVovoka.
The great underlying principle of the Ghost dance doctrine is that the time will come Then the whole Indian race, living and dead, will be reunited upon a regenerated earth, to live life of aboriginal happiness, forever free from death, disease, and misery. On this foundation each tribe has built a structure from its own mythology, and each apostle and believer has filled in the details according to his own mental capacity or ideas of happiness, with such additions as come to him from the trance. Some changes, also, have undoubtedly resulted from the transmission of the doctrine through the imperfect medium of the sign language. The differences of interpretation are precisely such as we find in Christianity, with its hundreds of sects and innumerable shades of individual opinion. The white race, being alien aud secondary and hardly real, has no part in this scheme of aboriginal regeneration, and will be left behind with the other things of earth that have served their temporary purpose, or else will cease entirely to exist.
All this is to be brought about by an overruling spiritual power that needs no assistance from human creatures; and though certain medicine-men were disposed to anticipate the Indian millennium by preaching resistance to the further encroachments of the whites, such teachings form no part of the true doctrine, and it was only wherÖ chronic dissatisfaction was aggravated by recent grievances, as among the Sioux, that the movement assumed a hostile expression. On the contrary, all believers were exhorted to make themselves worthy of the predicted happiness by discarding all things warlike and practicing honesty, peace, and good will, not only among themselves, but also toward the whites, so long as they were together. Some apostles have even thought that all race distinctions are to be obliterated, and that the whites are to participate with the Indians in the coming f01icity; but it seems unquestionable that this is equally contrary to the doctrine as originally preached.