The History of the Ghost Dance Cult

             The Ghost Dance Cult was a religous movement among Native Americans during the late1800"s in the far west. It offered the Indians hope ofspiritual renewal and a return to their oldway of living. The religion promised that dead Indian ancestors and game animals would comeback to life. It was first adopted by Indians in what is now the state of Nevada in the late 1860"s. The religion was revived in 1889 by several different Californian tribes. By 1890 The Ghost.

             Dance Cult was rapidly spreading among the Indians of the great plains. The plains Indians who adopted this religion had been forced onto reservations and were suffering from hunger and disease. Whites had wiped out the buffalo herds, leaving the indians without their chief source of food. This caused them to search for a source of spiritual salvation, and they turned to the Ghost.

             Dance Cult. .

             The religion centered on a ceremony called the ghost dance, which differed from tribe to tribe. These ancient ghost dances dealt with the spirits of dead human beings. There was also a ghost dance to cure sicknesses caused by ghosts, and a ghost scalp dance. Among western Sioux in 1890, believers danced around a pole or tree decorated with sacred artifacts. The dancers wore special clothing called ghost shirts, which were painted with sacred symbols, including moons, stars, and eagles. The Sioux believed the shirts would protect them from anything, even enemy bullets. .

             The Ghost Dance prospered in the Indian communities for nearly ten years. Then, in 1897, the Ghost Dance at Alisal was accompanied by a procession led by Chief Tarino to Mission San Jose's centennial anniversary celebration. Legend had it that this same chief helped lay the cornerstone at the mission in 1797 when he was 25 years old. To some of the Ohlone, another Californian tribe, Chief Tarino must have seemed an ancestral ghost. 1897 marked the 125th anniversary of his birth.

Related Essays: