Ghost Dance In January 1889, a religious movement was created known as the Ghost Dance. It was this dance that the Indians believed would reunite them with friends and relatives in the ghost world.
As the movments of the ghost dance were shared from tribe to tribe, it took on this all new meaning beyond its original reasons. The Indian were praying for some kind of hope and thus began dancing and singing the songs that would cause the world to open up and swallow all the white people who had caused them so much suffering and had taken the land in which they lived. (A rebellion of sorts)
The Ghost Dance, however, provoked fear and hysteria among white settlers which contributed to the events that happened at the Massacre at Wounded Knee.
The vision spread quickly through the Indian camps across the country. Word began to be whispered among the people on the reservations that a great new Indian Messiah had come to liberate them, and investigative parties were sent out to discover the nature of these claims.
An Arapaho hunting party believed him to be the incarnation of Jesus, returned to save the Indian nations from the hatred of white people.
According to what I have read, those who had taken part in the Ghost Dance, which was later to be banned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs , "The Ghost Dance" would no longer be allowed to be practiced amoung its people as they did all other Indians spiritual rituals), the Lakotas adopted it and began composing sacred songs of hope.
It was called the new religion called the Ghost Dance by white people because of its precepts of resurrection and reunion with the dead.
Short Bull was a great warrior who fought at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and a medicine man who brought the Ghost Dance religion to the Lakotas. Unfortunately, through many miscalculations by federal and army officials, the Ghost Dance religion resulted in the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.
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The Ghost Dance religion promised an apocalypse in the coming years during which time the earth would be destroyed, only to be recreated with the Indians as the inheritors of the new earth.
According to the prophecy, the recent times of suffering for Indians had been brought about by their sins, but now they had withstood enough under the whites. With the earth destroyed, white people would be obliterated, buried under the new soil of the spring that would cover the land and restore the prairie. The buffalo and antelope would return, and deceased ancestors would rise to once again roam the earth, now free of violence, starvation, and disease.
The natural world would be restored, and the land once again would be free and open to the Indian peoples, without the borders and boundaries of the white man. The new doctrine taught that salvation would be achieved when the Indians purged themselves of the evil ways learned from the white man, especially the drinking of alcohol. Believers were encouraged to engage in frequent ceremonial cleansing, meditation, prayer, chanting, and most importantly, dancing the Ghost Dance. Hearing rumors of the prophecy and fearing that it was a portent of renewed violence, white homesteaders panicked and the government responded.
The government agent at Standing Rock, James McLaughlin, described the Ghost Dance as an "absurd craze" -- "demoralizing, indecent, disgusting." Reservation agents described the Indians as "wild and crazy," and believed that their actions warranted military protection for white settlers. But while one of the primary goals of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was to convert the Indians to Christianity, they did not recognize that the fundamental principles of the Ghost Dance were indeed Christian in nature and had the effect of converting many to a belief in the one Christian God. In addition, Wovoka preached that, to survive, the Indians needed to turn to farming and to send their children to school to be educated.
Ironically, while these efforts would appear to coincide with the goals of the Bureau, the Ghost Dance was outlawed by the agency. The Bureau feared the swelling numbers of Ghost Dancers and believed that the ritual was a precursor to renewed Indian militancy and violent rebellion.