Wounding More Than Just The Knee: The Development Of The Ghost Dance In America

2465 words - 10 pages

Religion has always been an easy respite from the toils of daily life. Moreover, it has an intrinsic ability to help its followers make sense of matters during times of despair. For Native Americans, religion has long been an integral part of their culture. The Longhouse Religion, the Drummer-Dreamer Faith (which strongly foreshadowed the development of the Ghost Dance movement), and the Indian Shaker Church are all religions that originated deep within Native American culture. The white man, since his arrival in America, has always had extreme amounts of tension with Native Americans, often enacting laws in order to do what would make white society happy. As the United States government took away more and more of what Native Americans stood for, vast amounts of them turned to religion for reprieve from the pain and suffering instigated, in part, by the white man.
The United States government, since its very foundation, has been hostile towards Native Americans, forcing them to comply with their needs. An early instance of Indian manipulation on the part of the United States government was the Indian Removal Act of 1830. During Andrew Jackson’s presidency, thousands of Native Americans were forced off of their land west of the Mississippi River. These Native Americans walked on what would later be known as the Trail of Tears. It was named this because of the acute anguish that countless numbers of them endured while on it. As they were forced further and further west, they were cramped onto smaller and less fertile lands.
The Sioux Treaty of 1868 (also known as the Treaty of Fort Laramie) established the Great Sioux Reservation. This treaty drew boundaries as to where Native Americans could and could not settle, and attempted to keep Indians and whites from mingling in any way. However, it was constantly being broken by whites, who often trespassed onto reservations in search of gold and other raw resources. The Dawes Act of 1887 was an attempt by the United States Government to end violence between Native Americans and whites, encouraging Indian assimilation into white culture. This act also allowed the government to buy Indian land for white settlement on the frontier. They did this by breaking up Native American reservations and allotting them for individual Indians. Contrary to the United States’ hopes, the Dawes Act ultimately badly severed Native American tribes and their cultures.
The Ghost Dance, a religious movement formed in 1890, was, in many ways, a reaction to the United States’ long term manipulation of Native Americans. As the ideas of the Ghost Dance were spread across America, they became obscured within Native American cultures. Eventually, many key parts of the belief system behind the Ghost Dance’s doctrine were lost, resulting in violence at the Battle of Wounded Knee. Newspapers across the country portrayed the Ghost Dance negatively, leaving the general public with a skewed perspective of the Ghost Dance itself....

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