PRAYER FOR AN NEW WAY
“I did not know then how much
was ended. When I look back now
from this high hill of my old age, I
can still see the butchered women
and children lying heaped and
scattered along the crooked gulch
as plain as when I saw them with
eyes still young. And I can see that
something else died there in the
bloody mud, and was buried in the
blizzard. A people’s dream died
Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa) was a
there. It was a beautiful dream...
famous Wichasha Wakan (Holy Man)
The nation’s hoop is broken and
of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) who
scattered. There is no center any
participated at the age of twelve in
longer, and the sacred tree is dead.”
the Battle of Little Big Horn (1876)
Black Elk and was wounded in the Wounded
Knee massacre in 1890.
Ghost Dance Websites
James Mooney’s Account and Photographs
Connecting the Events of 1890 and 1973
Ghost Shirt, National Museum of the American Indian
Chronology of Events before Wounded Knee Massacre
Story of Lost Bird
The Paiute Prophet Wovoka
" I want my people to stay with me here. All the
dead men will come to life again. Their spirits will
come to their bodies again. We must wait here in
the homes of our fathers and be ready to meet
them in the bosom of our mother. "
-Wovoka, Paiute Prophet
Origins of the Ghost Dance
The Ghost Dance religion began with Wovoka's Great
Revelation. On New Year's Day 1889, Wovoka had a
religious revelation wherein he "died" and went to
God gave him a dance and a message of peace to share
with all people. He was to stress brotherhood among all
Indian people, and between the Indian and White.
Wovoka proclaimed his stirring message and taught his
people the Ghost Dance, a round dance that lasted for
five nights. Men and women, their fingers intertwined,
shuffled sideways around a fire, dancing to the songs
that Wovoka led.
Geographical Extent of the Ghost
The Ghost Dance
Drawings and Photographs by
Anthropologist James Mooney
Ghost Dance Shirts
1831 – December 15, 1890
Sioux Medicine Man who led 1,200
Sioux and Cheyenne warriors
against the US 7th Cavalry under
George Armstrong Custer at the
Battle of the Little Bighorn on
June 25th, 1876. Though he did not
participate personally in the battle,
the chiefs were spurred on by a
dream that Sitting Bull had in
which a group of American
soldiers tumbled into his
The once proud Sioux found their free-roaming life destroyed, the buffalo gone,
themselves confined to reservations dependent on Indian Agents for their existence.
The Sioux version of the Ghost Dance differed from that of Wovoka and other Plains
groups; Sioux believed that a tidal wave of new soil would cover the earth, bury the
whites, and restore the prairie and the buffalo.
In a desperate attempt to return to the days of their glory, many believed that the
Ghost Dance would hasten salvation. Many dancers wore brightly colored shirts
emblazoned with images of eagles and buffaloes.
These "Ghost Shirts" they believed would protect them from the bluecoats' bullets.
During the fall of 1890, the Ghost Dance spread through the Sioux villages of the
Dakota reservations, revitalizing the Indians and bringing fear to the whites.
A desperate Indian Agent at Pine Ridge wired his superiors in Washington, "Indians
are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy....We need protection and we need it
now. The leaders should be arrested and confined at some military post until the
matter is quieted, and this should be done now."
The order went out to arrest Chief Sitting Bull at the Standing Rock Reservation.
Sitting Bull was killed in the attempt on December 15.
Chief Big Foot was next on the list.
1890 - The Ghost Dance religion sweeps across the man and
Sioux reservation. dead at
Sitting Bull is killed on December 15. Wounded
On December 29, Big Foot's band of Minneconjous, Knee
trying to reach Pine Ridge and the protection of Red
Cloud after hearing of Sitting Bull's death, are
Wounded Knee Creek on December 29 by Custer's old
outfit, the Seventh Cavalry.
Lost Bird (1890-1920)
To support herself she
toured with Buffalo Bill’s
Wild West Show Lost Bird was adopted by Gen.
Leonard Colby and his suffragist
wife, Clara Bewick Colby. The baby’s
original name died at Wounded
Knee, along with her chance to grow
up in her own culture. She became.
literally and figuratively, Zintkala
Nuni, the Lost Bird.
Wounded Knee Today
Re-interment of Lost Bird’s
remains at Pine Ridge Reservation
Ritual: Standardized activities that honor and influence
“A collection of rituals, organized to reflect a
cosmology, that mobilizes supernatural powers for the
purpose of achieving or preventing transformations of
Belief: Personal cosmology, symbolic behavior, and
“A set of symbolic forms and acts which relate humans
to the ultimate conditions of their existence.”
Role of Religion
reduces anxiety by explaining the unknown
provides comfort by assuring supernatural aid
provides a framework of right and wrong
sets standards for acceptable behavior
shifts burden of decision making from
individuals to supernatural powers
helps maintain social solidarity
Those who perform
on behalf of a group. ritual specialist
Orthodox Priests specialist
Deliberate, conscious, organized efforts by
members of a society to create a more satisfying
a remembered time of calm and prosperity
a period of collective stress, followed by
a period of revitalization and transformation,
a new understanding and accommodation of
Characteristics of Revitalization
hopelessness, dire circumstances and degraded
conditions, no recourse to ordinary channels (ex:
charismatic leader (in contact with supernatural
forces) who has a vision through an
altered state of consciousness (trance through
stimulants, fatigue, etc)
mazeway reformulation (“born again” experience,
see the world with new eyes)
the blending of
rituals, and other
traits to form a
Design Elements: Catholic
priest, stars and colors from
the American flag, the turtle
who brought soil for the
World’s creation, and birds,
messengers to the spirit
world. Ghost Dance Dress, Arapaho peoples,
central plains states, about A.D. 1890
Other Historic Revitalization
Judaism was created during the Exodus crisis when the Jews had to form their society
anew after the flight form Egypt and Moses brought down the new vision from the
mountain in the form of the ten commandments.
Christianity evolved in the context of Roman oppression of the Jews, with Christ as
the charismatic leader who reformulated Judaism into the Christian philosophy.
Islam was formulated by Mohammed with elements from Judaism, Christianity, and
the older pantheistic religion of the Arabian peninsula (represented by the sacred site
of the Kabba).
Buddhism was formulated out of Hinduism by the charismatic leader, the Buddha.
People with different mazeways can find it almost impossible to
communicate, so violent intercultural conflict is often a feature
of revitalization movements and emerging religions.
The Role of Stress
At individual level (manifestations of malaise, underlying causes)
At group/societal level, when way of seeing the world
“mazeway” (system of economics, values, etc) falters due to:
marginalization from larger society
severe privation (food, shelter, etc)
loss of hope for more mundane solution to problems
leads to family dysfunction and societal dysfunction
forms of resistance “weapons of the weak” such as work slowdowns, ‘mistakes’
Larger society’s response:
voluntary or forced acculturation (taking up characteristics of mainstream society)
assimilation (indistinguishability from larger society)
annhiliation (complete eradication of group, “ethnic cleansing”)
among the Roma (Romania)
Contemporary Social Movements
How do they