Encyclopedia of the Great Plains | GHOST DANCE
Blow up the balloon and tie it. Then rub it really fast through your hair for about 10 seconds. This will add a static charge. Slowly bring the balloon near the ghost, and the ghost will begin to rise toward the balloon. If the balloon is charged enough, the ghost will rise and float right up to the balloon, even when it is several inches away. With a little practice, you can get the ghost to rise, float, and even dance around. The ghost will rise and move along with the balloon.
Dancing with Ghosts
With a good charge, the balloon can control the ghost from several inches away. When you rub the balloon through your hair, invisible electrons with a negative charge build up on the surface of the balloon. The electrons have the power to pull very light objects with a positive charge toward them — in this case, the tissue ghost! He was said to be familiar with Mormonism and various religious traditions of native tribes in Nevada and California. In late , he became quite ill with scarlet fever and may have gone into a coma.
During his illness, he claimed to have religious visions.
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The depth of his illness coincided with a solar eclipse on January 1, , which was seen as a special sign. When Wovoka regained his health, he began to preach of knowledge which God had imparted to him. According to Wovoka, a new age would dawn in The dead of his people would be restored to life.
Game which had been hunted nearly to extinction would return. And the white people would vanish and stop afflicting the indigenous peoples. Wovoka also said a ritual dance which had been taught to him in his visions must be practiced by native populations.
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Decades earlier, in the late s , during a time of privation among western tribes, there had been a version of the ghost dance which spread through the West. That dance also prophesied positive changes to come to the lives of Native Americans. The earlier ghost dance spread through Nevada and California, but when the prophecies did not come true, the beliefs and accompanying dance rituals were abandoned.
His idea quickly spread along travel routes, and became widely known among the western tribes. At the time, the Native American population was demoralized. The nomadic way of life had been curtailed by the U. Wovoka's preaching seemed to offer some hope. Representatives of various western tribes began to visit Wovoka to learn about his visions, and especially about what was becoming widely known as the ghost dance.
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Before long, the ritual was being performed across Native American communities, which were generally located on reservations administered by the federal government. In , the ghost dance had become widespread among the western tribes. The dances became well-attended rituals, generally taking place over a span of four nights and the morning of the fifth day.
Among the Sioux, who were led by the legendary Sitting Bull , the dance became extremely popular. The belief took hold that someone wearing a shirt that was worn during the ghost dance would become invulnerable to any injury.
Rumors of the ghost dance began to instill fear among white settlers in South Dakota, in the region of the Indian reservation at Pine Ridge. Word began to spread that the Lakota Sioux were finding a fairly dangerous message in Wovoka's visions.
His talk of a new age without whites began to be seen as a call to eliminate the white settlers from the region. And part of Wovoka's vision was that the various tribes would all unite. So the ghost dancers began to be seen as a dangerous movement that could lead to widespread attacks on white settlers across the entire West. The spreading fear of the ghost dance movement was picked up by newspapers, in an era when publishers such as Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were beginning to champion sensational news.
In November , a number of newspaper headlines across America linked the ghost dance to alleged plots against white settlers and U.
Army troops. An example of how white society viewed the ghost dance appeared in the form of a lengthy story in the New York Times with the subheadline, "How the Indians Work Themselves Up to a Fighting Pitch. The reporter described the scene:. On the following day the other side of the country, the front-page story "A Devilish Plot" claimed that Indians on the Pine Ridge reservation planned to hold a ghost dance in a narrow valley.
In "It Looks More Like War," the New York Times claimed that Little Wound, one of the leaders at the Pine Ridge reservation, "the great camp of the ghost dancers," asserted that the Indians would defy orders to cease the dancing rituals.
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The article said the Sioux were "choosing their fighting ground," and preparing for a major conflict with the U. Most Americans in the late s were familiar with Sitting Bull, a medicine man of the Hunkpapa Sioux who was closely associated with the Plains Wars of the s.
Sitting Bull did not directly participate in the massacre of Custer in , though he was in the vicinity, and his followers attacked Custer and his men. Following the demise of Custer, Sitting Bull led his people into safety in Canada. After being offered amnesty, he eventually returned to the United States in By , Sitting Bull was back in South Dakota.
He became sympathetic to the movement, encouraged young Native Americans to embrace the spirituality espoused by Wovoka, and apparently urged them to take part in the ghost dance rituals.