Indian Sun Dance

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Austin Lauer Lauer 1 T21
Mr.Vale
17 Nov. 2007
I. Thesis: The United States' ban of the Indian Sun Dance in 1883 damaged the religious, cultural, and social framework of the Indians and was a key step in the United States' effort to try to assimilate Indians into American society.

II. Introduction – Banning of the Sun Dance and the Historical Events that Led to the Indian Sun Dance Ban:

1. Due to the diminishing supply of buffalo in the 1870s and 1880s, and the Indians' forced movement to reservations, the Indians' economic base was destroyed, and they were forced to rely on the United States government for food and supplies, thereby becoming subject to U.S. economic and political control. [1]

2. In 1871 The U.S. ended treaty-making with the Indians and in the 1870s and early 1880s U.S. policy transformed from a so-called "peace policy" (where Indians were forced onto reservations) to an "assimilation policy" in which the Indian and his ways would be absorbed into the general population. [2]

3. As part of this assimilation policy, between 1869 and 1872 all of the recognized Indian Tribes at the time were apportioned among the 13 Christian denominations recognized by the Federal government. [3]

4. The Secretary of the Department of Interior, Henry M. Teller, established the Court of Indian Offenses in 1883 which promulgated rules for investigating, prosecuting, convicting and punishing people who followed tribal religions, including those who participated in "old heathenish dances," such as the Sun Dance. [3]

5. By 1884, Courts of Indian Offenses were instituted on all Indian reservations and they worked to banish the Sun Dance from the Indian reservations by punishing offenders with imprisonment or withholding of Indian rations from the U.S. government. [3] [7]

6. Subsequent lists of indigenous practices prohibited by federal regulations were promulgated in 1892 and 1904 prohibiting all dances and any similar feasts. [3]

III. Cultural Significance of Sun Dance

1. The Sun Dance is a sacred annual summer ritual that was performed by some twenty tribes of the Plains Indians (the nomadic tribes of the American mid- west). [4] [5]

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2. The performance of the Sun Dance varied among different tribes people, but certain activities were common throughout the various Plains Indian tribes. [4]

3. The Sun Dance typically contains the following elements: (a)Is was usually preceded by a sweat-lodge ceremony for purification; (b)The annual gathering lasted about four through eight days; (c)Dancers danced around a cottonwood pole (symbolizing the grandfather) for a period of days, during which they fast and abstained from drink: (d)The male dancers may have undergone a piercing in which: cuts are made to the chest or back and a wooden skewer is inserted through the wounds and the dancers and are tied to buffalo skulls or to a ceremonial cottonwood pole in the center of the camp; (e)The dancers then underwent self-torture designed to extricate themselves from the skewers. (f)The dancers danced to a drumbeat often to special arrangements of dance steps; (g)Offerings, were typically made, special songs are sung, and incantations pr prayers are recited; (h)Sacrifice of the buffalo (the animal symbol of the sun) was part of the ceremony. [6] [5]

IV. Religious Significance of the Sun Dance

1. The main purpose of the Sun Dance (which is a sacrificial dance) was to allow people to renew their faith in the spirits that guide the world. It contained all religion and most rites. [12]

2. The dancers underwent self-torture tied to the central sun pole, where all three worlds are connected: the spiritual world of medicine fathers, the physical world of...
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