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Ghost Dance

by : Daveparts
Tuesday September 25, 2007 - 14:48

Ghost Dance By David Glenn Cox

When the Teton Sioux nation surrendered in 1876-77 they were promised that they could maintain sovereignty on their land. They would be treated as a sovereign nation; they could elect their own leaders and make their own policies. But very quickly it became apparent that they were captives on their own land. They could choose only the leaders that met with Washington’s approval. They could set only policies that met with Washington’s approval.

Washington moved the boundary of their reservation from the 104th parallel to the 103rd cleaving off fifty miles of their land that had been ceded to them by government treaty. Finally pushed into a 35,000 square mile reservation that as well would eventually be taken from them. The two strongest leaders for the Native Americans were Red Cloud and Spotted Tail and in the summer of 1881 Spotted Tail was assassinated by Crow Dog. Dismissed by whites as a fight over a woman while Red Cloud observed that a cowardly Indian was found to remove Spotted Tail because he stood strong for the improvement of his people.

“This was charged upon the Indian’s because an Indian did it,” he said, “but who set on the Indian?”

The promises and treaties echo through the corridors of history. The same lies with only new locales, new students but old lessons. The native Americans had something that the rich and powerful in Washington wanted and they would promise the moon and the stars but deliver only the darkness to get it. They would kill with impunity and then blame the victims for the crimes. Blackwater’s antics are nothing new to the Native Americans. They’ve seen it, felt it and tasted it all before.

The Native American leaders had hoped and prayed that the whites could be dealt with and appealed to their moral character in a statement that also fits the current situation in Iraq.

“What have we done that you should want us to stop? We have done nothing. It is all the people on your side that have started us to do all these depredations. We could not go anywhere else, and so we took refuge in this country. . . . I would like to know why you came here. . . . You come here to tell us lies, but we don’t want to hear them. I don’t wish any such language used to me, that is, to tell me such lies in my Great Mother’s house. Don’t you say two more words. Go back home where you came from. . . . Tatanka Yotanka (Sitting Bull)

How history repeats it’s self with the Calvary again in walled forts making treaties and promises to the native Iraqi’s. How the Iraqi’s are free to pick only leaders leaders that agree with the great white father and to trade glass beads for oil wealth and the illusion of sovereignty. All others are to be considered renegades to be hunted down and killed. But when the illusion is demonstrated, as such, the proud chief must again back down to the great white father.

But the Native Americans their lands taken, their strength destroyed fell back on their religion and upon a vision.

*The Fish Eaters (Paiutes) told the visitors that the Christ had returned to the Earth again. Just before sundown on the third day the Christ appeared and the Indians made a big fire to throw light on him. Kicking Bear had always thought that Christ was a white man like the missionaries, but this man looked like an Indian. After a while he rose and spoke to the waiting crowd. “I have sent for you and I’m glad to see you,” he said. “I am going to talk to you after a while about your relatives who are dead and gone. My children, I want you to listen to all I have to say to you. I will teach you how to dance a dance, and I want you to dance it. Get ready for your dance and when your dance is over, I will talk to you.” Then he commenced to dance, everybody joining in, the Christ singing while they danced. They danced the dance of the ghosts until late at night, when the messiah told them they had danced enough.

Next morning, Kicking Bear and the others went up close to the messiah to see if he had the scars of crucifixion which the missionaries had told them about. There was a scar on his wrist and one on his face, but they could not see his feet because he was wearing moccasins. Throughout the day he talked to them. In the beginning, he said, God made the heaven and the Earth, and then sent the Christ to teach the people, but the white men had treated him badly, leaving scars on his body and so he went back to heaven. Now he had returned to Earth as an Indian and he was to renew everything as it used to be and make it better.

In the next springtime, when the grass was knee high, the Earth would be covered over with new soil which would bury all the white men, and the new land would be covered with sweet grass and running water and trees. Great herds of buffalo and wild horses would come back. The Indians who danced the ghost dance would be taken up in the air and suspended their while a wave of new Earth was passing, and then they would be set down among the ghosts of their ancestors on the new Earth, where only Indians would live.

Did Kicking Bear actually meet and dance with Jesus? Or was it the vision of a desperate man whose way of life had been destroyed whose wealth and property had been taken. A man whose fate was now to live as a beggar awaiting hand outs from a people who forgot about him once they had taken his wealth. Much like today, as the administration continues pushing for the new Iraqi oil law. The ownership of the oil fields will pass to foreigners leaving the Iraqi’s beggars in their own rich land. It should be no surprise then if the Iraqi’s as well fall back on their religious leaders.

It is easy enough to relate these two histories because of the similarities to massacres and mishandling of the situations and because the goals are identical, to take the wealth from someone who is different than us. To free them, to liberate them or to civilize them, call it what you will, to give them meaningless titles and platitudes while taking their wealth. All that went on 130 years ago is beyond our reach, we can only shake our head at the crimes done to a people who tried to deal with us in good faith. Today however, is with in our reach and the goal is the same and we are shamed by our nations behavior towards those we have supposedly liberated or as Sitting Bull advised.

“If a man loses anything and goes back and looks carefully for it he will find it, and that is what the Indians are doing now when they ask you to give them the things you promised them in the past; and I do not consider that they should be treated like beasts, and that is the reason I have grown up with the feelings I have. . . .I feel that my country has gotten a bad name, and I want it to have a good name; and I sit sometimes and wonder who it is that has given it a bad name.”

The past is the future; the failure of the Iraqis to eject the Americans will leave them like the Sioux tribes in North Dakota, neglected, sick and impoverished. We as Americans must follow Sitting Bull’s wisdom, we must go back and look carefully for the things we have lost. Because I feel like he felt, that my country has gotten a bad name and I want it to have a good name. To sit and wonder who it is that has given it a bad name.

The ghost dance caught on like wild fire and many Native Americans practiced it until it was outlawed by the US government agents as seditious. Or as it was put by one of the government’s Indian agents, “ A more pernicious system of religion could not have been offered to a people who stood on the threshold of civilization.”

Is that what this is today? The threshold of civilization.

* From, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee By Dee Brown



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