It felt foreign, like a threat.
James Mooney’s Ghost Dance Recordings (1894)
It scared them. What was it building toward? In the end, there would be blood, but it would be on their hands.
T wo years earlier, on January 1, , Paiute religious leader Wovoka had a vision. He saw God and all those who had died. God told Wovoka he must return and tell his people to be good and love one another, to live in peace with the whites. If they obeyed, they would be reunited with their ancestors on earth. There would be no more death. Then God gave Wovoka the Ghost Dance. If his people performed it for five consecutive days it would hasten their salvation.
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Wovoka began to preach his prophecy. Different tribes translated his speech and passed it rapidly throughout the West. You must not fight. Do right always. Wovoka was already a respected leader by the time of his historic vision.
Born in Western Nevada in about , he was orphaned at age A nearby white rancher took him in and raised him under the name Jack Wilson. Wovoka studied Christian religious doctrine and tribal mysticism, respectively. In fact, Wovoka often invoked Jesus by name. His peaceful prophecy became a movement, a religion in itself. Dozens of tribes across the West adopted the Ghost Dance and its teachings. That is, until Wounded Knee. In , the government broke a Lakota treaty by parceling their land into five smaller reservations across Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
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.
Make a feast at the dance and have food that everybody may eat. The Natdia, it was claimed, would bring about renewal of the native society and decline in the influence of the Whites. 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. 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 sweet grass, 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 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.
:: Native American Church of The Ghost Dancers ::
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 There are still members of the religious movement today. Buy beautiful prints from the collection in our new online shop! Available framed or unframed, delivered straight to your door.
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