The Ghost Dance.
As the white American s moved westwards towards the Mississippi river after the Civil war they clashed with the Native Americans. The White Americans sought to take advantage of the Homestead Act of 1862 which gave them free land. The Indians occupying the West were the original dwellers having stayed there for hundreds of generations since the 1930s after being driven there by the whites. The federal government altered it agreements and policies for the benefit of the white Americans that also led them to displace the Indians.Having this in mind is crucial for we will understand the role of American Indian link order to internalize how our nation has developed with various policies that determine people’s actions. Many of the Indian wars have their origin with government s broken promises as it is the case with the Pyramid battle and the Wounded Knee massacre both in Nevada.
The Ghost dance is a religious movement that was started in 1980 which was incorporated into the belief system of Native American. Ghost dance has the element of circle dancing which has been used by many Native Americans since the prehistoric times. It was first practiced among the Nevada Paiute in 1889 according to the teachings of Prophet Jack Wilson commonly known as Wovoka. This tradition then swept through most parts of West America quickly reaching Oklahoma and California. This made the Native Americans to synthesize some aspects of the ghost dance into their own rituals and beliefs. Such a process normally changes the society which has adopted new rituals into its own. This paper will examine the historical foundation of the ghost dance, the relation of the Wounded Knee massacre to the movement, relevant anthropological theory that can be used to analyze the movement and other similar movements that have developed in the recent past.
The historical foundation of the Ghost dance
The Indians were regarded as an obstacle of American expansion since the founding of the United States. The Jefferson adopted the philanthropic program of absorbing Indians and civilizing them into the American population. President Andrew Jackson developed a policy that would see that the Indians are moved to the far west as possible. Through force, the Indians settled in the present day Oklahoma west of Mississippi River. During the civil war, the western Indians had sided with the Confederacy which had them to be regarded as traitors by the United State Army.
This was because of the declaration of war by the Indian nations in response to the moving of Indians in America to present day Oklahoma and South Dakota.The white hunters disrupted the migration pattern of the buffalo in their construction of the railway. The buffalo was the central element in the Indian culture and as the principle source of food and hide used both for clothing and shelter. The buffalo prominently featured in Indian ceremonial and religious life. This led to developing pressures against the whites. The congress further increased the pressure in 1870 through the passed legislation that ended the policy that regarded the Indian nations as sovereign.
The congress extended direct federal jurisdiction to prevent and undermine tribal leadership and the gathering of Indian religious ceremonies. The Dawes Severability Act of 1887 further deprived Indians of two thirds of their remaining land leaving over one hundred thousand Indians homeless.The Indians used various tactics like fighting back, negotiating and keeping clear with the white people but it was all futile. They declined in number filled with hopelessness and were on the road to extinction. In response to this, many Indians responded to the movement of Messiah Wovoka. They joined the Ghost Dance religion to bring back the dead Indians killed by diseases and to restore the buffalo. This movement threatened the army and the whites and they aimed at stamping it out.The U.S state of Nevada’s Mason valley was occupied by the Northern Paiutes; collectively known as the Tövusi-dökadö meaning the Cyprus bulb eaters.
The Northern Paiutes lacked any form of formal political organization at the period of European – American settlement. They only had spiritual leaders who organized activities and events that were meant to improve the general community. Such events dealt with the observance of rituals depending on the specified time of year while other events were used to collectively call the people for tasks such as harvesting or hunting. The Ghost Dance was an original idea of Hawthorne Wodziwob. He was a Piute man who in preparation to announce his vision, he organized a dance to be performed in series in the community. His vision was of promises made to him by the deceased following his journey to the land of the dead. Prior to this movement an epidemic of typhoid and other European diseases had stricken the land in 1867 that killed one-eighth of the population 
(Kehoe, p 33). From this trauma, the people emotionally and psychologically disturbed leading to social and economic disorders. The Indians stopped practicing nomadic lifestyles and were force to settle in one place. Others went to the city of Virginia to seek employment. The deceased, according to Wodziwob’s vision had promised him that they would return back to life to meet again with their loved ones. The community agreed with Wodziwob’s vision because of respect as a reputable healer after healing Jack Wilson’s father (Kehoe, 1989, p 32-33). The dance was performed in circles as a customary practice during the festivals.Chief Wovoka was the prophet of peace at that movement. He had prophesied of a peaceful end to White imperialism. He preached of cross cultural cooperation, honest living and goals of clean living to the Native Americans.
He was known through out the Mason Valley as a blessed young leader who was gifted. His main massage was on universal love which he often presided with circle dances to symbolize the path of the heavenly sun across the sky. James Mooney and anthropologist after interviewing Wilson in 1892 confirming that his message was similar to that of his fellow people of the American aboriginals( Mooney, 1896). Wilson claimed that he had stood before God and he gave him the information to tell the people to abide by his rules and to love one another as a family and friends in the world. He was also given the Ghost Dance to be given to the people. This dance was to give the people joy and happiness and to hasten the reunion of the decreased and the living.
Through this interview with Mooney, Wilson said that God also gave him powers to control the weather and was the deputy in charge of the Western part of the United States. Similarly, the then president, President Harrison was to be in charge of the East. (Mooney, 1896).Wilson message about the dance was to hasten the reunion and was to sweep away all evil in the world so that the world would be filed with love, faith and food. This message was totally accepted and incorporated into the Paiute religion as a “Dance in A Circle”. With time, their contact with the European, the Ghost Dance movement was believed to be a contribution of Lakota resistance leading to the Knee Massacre of 1890. At least 153 Lakota Sioux were killed by the US army (Utley, 1964). The ‘spirit dance’ as an expression was used to describe all such forms of practices but later the expression was translated into being the ‘Ghost dance’.
The Wounded Knee Massacre
The Wounded Knee massacre is also known as the battle of the Wounded Knee. This was an armed conflict between the United States of America and the Great Sioux nation and the Indian Wars of 1888. Wovoka had had a vision from god that warned him of the evils of the white man. He spread this message to all the Indian camps across the country. He was considered as the Indian Messiah who had come to liberate them. Those who had been send to confirm the truth about this vision said to the people that the Indian Messiah had appeared to an Arapaho hunting party crowned with thorns. The people believed him as a savior who had come to save the Indian nation from the scourge of the white people.
(Liggett. L; 1998).The devotees of the Ghost Dance on December 29, made a lengthy trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation in south western Dakota to find military apprehension. Chief Big Foot of the tribe of Miniconjou Sioux (Lakota) led his members and Hunk papa Sioux followers to the south terrain of the Badlands. The US agent on the Sioux reservation ordered the Indian police to arrest chief Sitting Bull but he refused to cooperate. In response to this, the police shot him together with his son. Women and children fled in panic after witnessing this and hid in badlands. The severer hunger and weather upon this region forced them back at Wounded Knee Creek, south Daroka where they surrendered to the police.
Many Indians were disarmed at the creek but one if they resisted leading to a struggle that ended when one of the officers was killed by a stray shot. The soldiers responded by opening firearms to the Indians as they tried to flee for protection. At the snowy banks of Wounded Knee creep three hundred Lakota, women, children and men were massacred by the violent encounter with the US soldiers. Big Foot was also killed in the massacre. Twenty five soldiers died while 39 of them were badly wounded.The site of Wounded Knee massacre plays a significant role in the history of the Sioux nation which is seen in the 1973 opening of the second siege of the Wounded Knee. The siege began as an occupation of a church to protest of the government of Dickie WilsonThe massacre brought an end to the ghost dance religion. The massacre was a result of a clash of failure of governmental Indian polices and cultures.
The Indians had planned various strategies to avoid confrontation with the white soldiers as were embracing themselves to defend their rights so as to continue performing sacred ceremonies. The militia was on the other hand with a mission to eliminate the Ghost Dance leaders from their devotees (Lignett, 1998).The elaboration of the concept of the ghost dance was the development of the Ghost Shirt which was a special garment worn by the warriors. It was rumored that the shirt was able to repel bullets through spiritual powers. This was a concept introduced by chief Kicking Bear in 1890 (Kehoe, 1989, p13)In their fight for the renewal of the earth which all evil would be washed away, the Lakota interpreted it as the removal of all the Anglo –Americans from their lands. Wilson however kept insisting of the peaceful coexistence with the European settlers.
Revitalization theory and the ghost dance
The model of Anthony Wallace of revitalization movement describes best the Native American religious movement. He postulates that the revitalization movement occurs at a time when there is general satisfactory adoption to other people’s natural and social environment. It is a period of individual stress and people do survive because of the accustomed cultural behavior. This period is also characterized by the distortion of cult ur3e where by changes in the natural or social e environment reduces the group’s capacity of the accustomed cultural behavior to satisfy the emotional and physical needs of the people. Revitalization is the period of formulation of cultural patterns, its organization and communication, its adaptation depending on the preference of the people, cultural transformation n and reutilizations to become the standard cultural behavior.
The Ghost dance was a religious revitalization movement which the Indian believers were given that assurance that one day they would be relived of their oppression by the white people. It was a movement that had spread to the people oaf Sioux in South Dakota. The Tövusi-dökadö's age was characterized by general satisfactory to environmental and cultural adaptation. The influx of white settlers to the Piute land forms the second phase of Wallace, model. It is characterized by increased individual stress bye various members of the community .The cultural distortion in most parts of the 1880s falls under the period of cultural distortion, the re was increased presence zoo the white involvement with agribusiness and the US government.
Revitalization is ushered with introduction of the Ghost dance by Jack Wilson getting into the fourth period. Satisfactory adoption then follows this period since the 1900. This lead to eradication of the long established food of Tövusi-dökadö's homeland as the Indians adopted the American subsistence methods that were practiced at that period as they still remained inn Paiute culture. In 1890, the Navajo leaders of the Southwestern US which is the second largest Native American tribe rejected the Ghost dance by demising it as ‘Worthless words’ (Kehoe, 1989, p 24). They never incorporate the ritual into their society because of the high standards of economic and social satisfaction during that time. They also rejected the ghost dance ritual because of fear of spirits and ghost based on their own particular beliefs.
Movements with similarities
In South Africa, there were the cattle killing of 1856-1857 that saw the killing of about sixty thousands Xhosa people through self induced starvation. They destroyed their food reserves in the anticipation of the fulfillment of the vision to come to Nongqawuse. The Maji Maji rebellion of Tanganyika was similar to the aspect of the Ghost Dance in which a spirit medium of water was believed to help the warriors turn German bullets into water, the Religious Harmony Society was a Chinese movement that had magical cloth that was believed to react against Western colonialism. The Burkahism was an Altyan movement that reacted against Russifiocation. The Spanish troops fought against secularism and they believed that a piece of cloth called the dente bala had an image of the holy heart of Jesus that would protect the warriors against bullets. The Malaysian cargo cults believed in a return of their ancestors brought by western technology.Child soldiers in the civil wars of Liberia wore wedding gowns and wigs to confuse the bullets from the enemy by
assuming dual identity.
The Ghost Dance was a religious movement that responded against the white imperial and dominance. It was a movement to give the Indians hope to continue living after being oppressed, made home, landless ad deprived of buffalos as their source of food. The movement is considered as a revitalization of culture basing on the various conditions of Wallace model which made them to adopt the concept of the Ghost Dance unlike other Indians in America at the time. Policies made by the federal governments were only meant to enhance white dominance in America at the expense of the common good of all.
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 Lori Liggett, 1998 the Wounded Knee massacre, December 29, 1890 Ghost dance religion
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