The Ghost Dance: Intention vs. Result
The Ghost Dance was a tradition that originated in the late 1800’s, this dance was a spiritual movement performed by Native Americans on reservations who were in search of hope in a time of need; however the results weren’t what they expected.
1.) What is the Ghost Dance?
A.) The ghost dance was originated by a Northern Paiute Indian named Wovoka (Jack Wilson in English), who insisted they were sent to earth to prepare Indians for their salvation. This movement began with a dream Wovoka had during a solar eclipse on the night of Jan 1, 1889. Wovoka’s dream included a vision in which all Native Americans were taken into the sky ...view middle of the document...
The Indians had suffered from lack of food and from disease even before the reservation only aggravated the situations. But the agents could do nothing to help the Indians” (101).
B.) Throughout all of these issues the Indian Agents failed notice a rumor of an Indian Messiah among the Lakota’s in the fall of 1889. Wovoka (Jack Wilson) created a Messiah Letter to be delivered to two tribes and was not to be seen by a white man; however this letter eventually found its way to Washington. In this letter Wovoka says, “When you get home you must begin a dance and continue for five days. Dance for four successive nights, and on the last night continue dancing until the morning off the fifth day, when all must bathe in the river and then return to their homes. You must all do this in the same way… I want you to dance every six weeks. Make a feast at the dance and have food that everybody may eat” (Legends par 5).
C.) Indian agents didn’t take notice of the Ghost Dance until late spring of 1890, this is when John W. Noble the Secretary of the Interior received a letter from an “alarmed citizen” living in Pierre, South Dakota. This citizen believed the Lakota’s were planning an uprising, at that point Noble ordered the commissioner of Indian affairs to investigate. Hugh D. Gallagher the agent at Pine Ridge Reservation was the first to respond and assured Noble that no dangers existed, Charles E. McChesney the agent at Cheyenne River Reservation also found no dangers, and both denied any rumors of an uprising. Agent J. George Wright from Rosebud Reservation denied any trouble, however he gave a more detailed reply. Wright reported that there was much excitement and secrecy between reservations as early as March of 1890. This agent found that this took place between the dissatisfied and non-progressive Indians. Agent James McLaughlin at Standing Rock Reservation replied with a long letter stating that there were no areas of concern.
D.) In the late summer of 1890 the Ghost Dance seemed to be dying out, however Gallagher included within his report in August that “the dance seemed to gain more followers as the summer passed. He wrote, “Strange as it may seem this story [of the messiah] was believed by a large number of Indians and is [to] this day” (Andersson 103). In late August was when the first trouble began, Gallaher at the Pine Ridge Reservation then learned that 2,000 Indians were located at a dance camp near White Clay Creek, by September the Ghost Dance spread to Rosebud Reservation, and by late October the Ghost Dance...