The Ghost Dance was a movement that was incorporated into various belief systems of the Native Americans. According to the teachings of Jack Wilson, the spirit of the dead could be reunited with the living and, as a result, bring peace, unity and prosperity to the natives through proper practice of dance. The dance was premised on the conventional ritual that was adopted by many Native Americans for years, but this novel form was first practiced in 1989 at Nevada Paiute. Later, the practice spread to the West of United States and quickly reached areas of Oklahoma and California. As the dance spread, the Native tribes of America synthesized selective aspects of the dance with their beliefs. In the process, there was a change in both the ritual and the society that integrated it. Jack Wilson was the principle figure in the religious movement, a prophet who predicted a peaceful ending of white expansion. He preached objectives of clean living, cross-cultural cooperation, and honesty by the Natives. Although most of the tribes of Native American practice the ritual during the last half of the 19th century, majority of literature concentrate on the Sioux of the 1890 (Young 45).
A complicated webs diverse viewpoints and misunderstandings surround the cult. Most people perceived the cult as call of violence with whites as the prime targets. It was viewed to promote war with traditional culture and whites did not consider the dance as religious, but rather a warlike gesture. Since its begging, agents demanded the discontinuation of the dance and advocated the arrest of its leaders. The practice of the ritual was considered to have played a significant role to the Lakota resistance. In 1890, in the Wounded-Knee Massacre, the American forces killed more than one hundred and fifty-three Hunkpapa and Miniconjou Lakota people. On the ghost Dance, the Sioux variation was inclined towards millenarianism, a novelty that differentiated the interpretation of the Sioux from that of Wilson Jackson. The practice is still evident today in the Caddo Nation (Young 14).
Ghost dance is a spiritual movement of the American Indians that began in the late nineteenth century following the Jack Wilson prophecy that predicted the extinction of the whites. The prophecy promised the return of the life of the old-time and superiority of the Indian Americans. Clean living, faithful dancing, hard work, peaceful adjustments, and adhering to God’s words would quicken the restoration of Indians to prosperity and resurrection of the dead. The Paiute traditions, which led to the emergence of ghost Dance, concerns earth renewal, as well as, the reintroduction of ancestral spirits of Northern Paiute in the contemporary days to help the Indians. The dance was the core of the Natdia religion and induced a sense of religious ecstasy. The movement was a result of Wovoka’s dream during the solar eclipse.
Wovoka claimed to have been in a spiritual world that made him envision the Native being raised up into the clouds, and the earth opened up to swallow all the whites, after which nature reverts into its original nature. The Natives together with their ancestors are returned back to the earth, which is it its original, natural nature. They believed that the world that they were brought back to will full of love and peace. As he was envisioning his dream, he was continuously told that through continuous dancing, it possible to achieve the dream where occupants of the earth will enjoy. The teachings of Wovoka were in accordance of those of Paiute tradition that predicted the renaissance of Paiute. It somewhat varied and contained some of the Christian doctrines. Wovoka told his followers to be peaceful and to maintain the secrecy of the dance from their enemies, the whites. The message spread quickly to other Native Americans and soon most of them dedicated to the spiritual movement.
Most people who represented each tribe flocked to Nevada to meet the leaders of the movement with the goal of learning the dance singing the songs that came with it. The believers in the spirituality of the Ghost Dance were convinced that performance of the dance will ultimately reunited them with the ancestors who were to come by railway from their spiritual worlds. The ancestral spirits, as well as Jesus’ spirit, were called upon to heal the ill and protect the land. Meanwhile, the mother Earth was to return to its primordial state of expected beauty and open up to swallow the rest of the people, those who were considered to lack the spirituality that was based on the land. Performance of the dance will hypothetically float in the sky above with the ancestral spirits and their families since they followed the extensive spirituality strictly.
The religion emerged in response to the oppression that its followers were facing from the whites. The followers felt dominated by their white counterparts and saw their ancestors as the solution to their sufferings. It shows that the Native Americans were using the ritual as a means of protecting themselves from the evils that come with the society. Wovoka played a major role in the crafting of the ritual following the prophecy that he claimed to have envisioned the extermination of the whites as the earth will open up and swallow them. Most of his followers were so disillusioned and believed that ancestors will save them. Indians were considered as an obstacle to the expansion of American.
The Jeffersonians embraced a philanthropic program of absorbing and civilizing Indian for purposes of incorporating them into the mainstream population. On the contrary, various nations, including the Cherokee adapted to the program, the government adopted the policy that worked to remove Indians from the west. With forceful evictions, the Indians hated the whites and saw their ancestors as the only solution to the problem. Legislations were passed by the congress ending the sovereign of Indian nations. The federal jurisdiction was extended to the mandate of undermining tribal leaderships and preventing Indian gatherings in regards to religious ceremonies. Although Indians fought back, negotiated and attempted to get rid of whites, they never succeeded regardless of the move they employed. Their numbers continued to decline dramatically, and most of them responded by joining the Ghost Dance. The followers of the movement performed a dance that Paiute Messiah argued it would provoke the return of the dead Indians. The government considered the ritual as a threat and ordered army to stop such gatherings. Among Indians, the ritual was considered a revitalization movement and believers were assured that Indians would one day be relieved of the repression that they faced from the whites (Young 24).
Young, William A.. The world’s religions: wo rldviews and contemporary issues. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1995. Print.
deep meaning behind them, but I cannot understand them.