Observations placeholder

Lame Deer - Native American Indians - Ghost dance

Identifier

003034

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

Towards the end of the 1800s, a strange dancing tradition arose as a consequence of the Native Americans exposure to Christianity.  An Indian, who claimed to be the Christ for the Indians, came to teach the remaining Natuve Americans how to dance their way to resurrection and new life.....

A description of the experience

Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee – Dee Brown

“My children I want you to listen to all I have to say to you.  I will teach you how to dance a dance and I want you to dance it.  Get ready for your dance, and when the dance is over, I will talk to you”  Then he commenced to dance, everybody joining in, the Christ singing while they danced.  They danced the dance of the ghosts until late at night, when the Messiah told them they had danced enough

…...... by mid November Ghost Dancing was so prevalent on the Sioux reservations that almost all other activities came to a halt.  No pupils appeared at the schoolhouses, the trading stores were empty, no work was done on the little farms..........

Lame Deer Seeker of Visions – John Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes

Out in the plains we get our visions the hard way, by fasting and by staying in the vision pit for four days and nights, crying for a dream.  Other tribes have the same quest for visions but search for them in a different way.  Eighty years ago the ghost dance religion came to us from the south, from a Paiute holy man.  People danced themselves into a trance until they saw their dead relatives.

The ghost dancers were massacred at Wounded Knee and their dream wiped out with Gatling guns ..........................................

Eighty years ago our people danced the  Ghost Dance, singing and dancing until they dropped from exhaustion, swooning and fainting, seeing visions.  They danced in this way to bring back the dead, to bring back the buffalo........................

The dance lasted four days.  Often they danced at night, until daybreak.  The dance leader had a big stick and on top of it he had a medicine bag and one eagle feather.  If they fanned somebody with this eagle feather it made him swoon.  The leader swung this staff with the feather around.  And while the people  were dancing, hand in hand, joined together, a power came from some place and a man or woman grew dizzy and fell down.  They looked as if they had died, except that their skin was shivering.  Well, they let them lay there, let them be, sprawled in the centre of the circle formed by the dancers.  The others kept going.

After a  while those people came to and got up.  Then the dancers stopped for a while and whoever had a spell or had fainted told what he had seen.  Some said 'I was dead and came to life again'.  Others said 'An eagle took me up there to see my dead mother'.

The source of the experience

Native American Indians

Concepts, symbols and science items

Concepts

Spirit helper

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Commonsteps

References