"When the earth is dying there shall arise a new tribe of all colours and all creeds. This tribe shall be called the Warriors of the Rainbow and it will put its faith in actions not words..."
Hopi Indian prophecy
('Hopi' means 'Peace')
|History of the GHOSTDANCE|
The Ghostdance has its origins about 150 years ago, when the Native American peoples were still free. They were nomadic people, moving with the seasons, the buffalo and their guiding spirits. The tribespeople lived in close communion with nature. Tribes varied and celebrated their differences, had their own folklore, beliefs, customs and were free to do so.
America, to the western mind was property to be acquired. Missionaries and others with "compassion" felt that the indigenous peoples - Indians - must be civilized. Many others just wanted them destroyed. The nomadic lifestyle of the Indians clashed with notions of property ownership and governance of the people. And as the White Man moved ever westward, more and more land was "claimed" for ownership, leaving the Indian tribespeople bewildered. The new government "reserved" the poorest acreage for the "Red people" to live upon. No more were they free to follow the buffalo. Diverse tribes were herded into these 'reservations' to much anger and discontent. But the White Man was afraid of these gathered peoples whom they viewed as evil savages.
General Sherman lead a campaign to quell those tribes who were not accepting the reservations. "The only good indians I ever saw were dead" Sherman is quoted as having written to his brother. This changed slightly to become the all-too-popular expression of Anti-Indian prejudice:" The only good Indian is a dead Indian". This campaign was known as 'The Campaign of Extermination' and General Sherman pursued his goals with intense hatred for the Red peoples.Many died who tried to fight back. The Indian Nations were effectively cowed - their spirit broken and morale gone - by the late 1880's.
However, a Sioux shaman would make a journey to the south, and there he would learn the Ghostdance. He visited the Peiote tribe, meeting another shaman who told him to gaze within a hat. He claimed he began walking in another world: The Old World. This was the world before the white man came and took the land and the buffalo away. The great herds roamed free and the tribes after them. The shaman was able to walk with the ghosts of the ancestors and they taught him this chant and the dance that goes with it.
(One of many variations):
The shaman brought this dance back to the Sioux People. Gathering them at one place, he told them that if they purified themselves and then danced this dance, the new (White Man's ) world, with all its corruption, would just roll up. Underneath would be the Old World as it had always been. He gave the people white shirts, emblazoned with the sun, the stars, and the moon upon them. These were believed to be magical, the white man's bullets would not be able to pierce them. The Sioux went to the sweat lodges and performed purification rituals. Then they put on their white shirts and danced around a pine tree. They linked hands in a huge circle, dancing around first in one direction, then the other. With the "Heya(s)" they stamped their feet. Spreading their arms like wings, they whirled around as they sang the last two lines. In time to the chanting, they repeated the dance cycle again and again.
News of it spread and across North America, tribes started dancing their own Ghostdances. The Ghostdance grew among the various tribes, with larger and larger numbers, and the tribespeople became more certain that the Old World was coming back. By dancing they would become free again. But the American government got nervous. Hundreds of discontented Indians, gathering in such numbers, and with such strong sense of identity sounded too dangerous.In 1890 more than 250 Sioux men, women and children gathered together and began Ghostdancing . They were at a place called Wounded Knee Creek. General Sherman arrived with his troops, and seeing the dancers, opened fire on them.
... all but a few of the Ghostdancers were massacred...
But now, 150 years later, the Ghostdance again is gathering momentum. It is still is believed that if enough people join, maybe the door can be opened to remake our world and bring back the lands of our ancestors. And again, the American government worries about Ghostdancers.