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Sun Dance - Wiwanyag Wachipi

 

"Each one of the young men presented himself to a medicine-man, who took between his thumb and forefinger a fold of the loose skin of the breast—and then ran a very narrow-bladed or sharp knife through the skin—a stronger skewer of bone, about the size of a carpenter's pencil was inserted. This was tied to a long skin rope fastened, at its other extremity, to the top of the sun-pole in the center of the arena. The whole object of the devotee is to break loose from these fetters. To liberate himself he must tear the skewers through the skin, a horrible task that even with the most resolute may require many hours of torture." -  A shocked Frederick Schwatka, wrote those words after watching a Sioux Sundance in the late 1899 for Century Magazine. http://history.oldcolo.com/history/research/Utes2.html

The Sun Dance ceremony is the most important religious ceremony of the Plains Nations and it is the ceremony that is most misunderstood by Non Native Americans.

"It showed a continuity between life and death - a regeneration. It shows that there is no true end to life, but a cycle of symbolic and true deaths and rebirths. All of nature is intertwined and dependent on one another. This gives an equal ground to everything on the Earth." http://www.crystalinks.com/sundance.html

"... the rite celebrates renewal - the spiritual rebirth of participants and their relatives as well as the regeneration of the living Earth with all its components - the ritual, involving sacrifice and supplication to insure harmony between all living beings, continues to be practiced by many contemporary native Americans."  http://www.crystalinks.com/sundance.html

This deeply spiritual and grueling ceremony is held at the time of the Summer Solstice and lasts from four to eight days. The Native American Nations living on the Plains that practice the Sun Dance ritual in some form are the Arapaho, Arikara, Assiniboine,  Bannock, Blackfoot, Blood, Cheyenne, Cree, Crow, Gros Ventre, Hidatsa, Kiowa, Mandan, Ojibway, Omaha, Ponca, Sarasi, Shoshone, Sioux, and Ute.

While each tribe may do the ceremony in different ways, each tribe includes the smoking of the pipe, dancing, singing, drumming, experiencing of visions, and fasting. Some tribes, like the Sioux, practice self-torture by the piercing of the skin on the chest or back as a personal sacrifice the individual makes for the good of all of the people of the tribe. A Purification ritual (Sweat Lodge ceremony) always precedes this ceremony for the Sioux people.

Among the reasons people choose to participate in the Sun Dance ritual is to thank the Creator / Great Mystery / Wakan Tanka for the blessings received, fulfilling a vow made in a crisis for help, asking for protection of loved ones in harms way, asking for physical healing of a sick family member or friend, and asking for the protection of the whole tribe or nation.

All of the reasons are non-selfish in as much the reason does not include benefits for oneself, but asks for benefits for others or is to give thanks. When the request is personal it is for help and understanding to be a better person so the individual can live a life to benefit their family and the people.

Please read this website for an excellent step by step description of the ceremony preparations and symbolisms during the ceremony. http://www.crystalinks.com/sundance.html

and this one: http://www.psyeta.org/sa/sa1.1/lawrence.html a good website to read on additional symbolism of animals and their parts used in the ceremony.

The traditional Sioux is non-materialistic and believes the only physical thing they can truly own is their own body. Thus it is considered their personal wealth and the offering of parts of it to Wakan Tanka is the highest gift or honor they can give.

This ceremony is not for a spectator's entertainment. It is a religious ceremony for the Lakota people to pray and is to be respected just as you would your own religions rites.

Mitakuye Oyasin (all my relations)

 

Sources:

Lakota Sun Dance current rules and warnings for outsiders http://tradecorridor.com/rosebud/spirit.htm

The Sacred Pipe, Black Elk's Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux. recorded and edited by Joseph Epes Brown. University of Oklahoma Press,1953,1989
Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux by John G. Neihardt Black Elk: The Sacred Ways of a Lakota by Wallace Black Elk

http://www.cyberbohemia.com/Pages/aguest.htm Observations of a guest to a Sioux Sun Dance and Sweat Lodge

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Dance

http://www.ar-t.org/Artist_Resume/Sundance_Cere/sundance_cere.html Another observation and explanation

http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/pla/sdo/index.htm The Sun Dance and Other Ceremonies of the Oglala Division of The Teton Dakota. by J. R. WALKER. [1917]

http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/pla/sdo/sdo03.htm

http://rebelcherokee.labdiva.com/Kiowasundance.html Explanation of the Kiowa Sun Dance ceremony.

http://www.indigenouspeople.net/sundance.htm Hidatsa Sun Dance

http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/The_Sun_Dance_Wheel-Arapaho.html Arapaho Sun Dance

http://library.thinkquest.org/15215/Culture/costumes.htm

http://library.thinkquest.org/15215/Culture/dance.htm

http://www.indigenouspeople.net/body_final.html Indigenous Peoples Literature

http://www.lakotawritings.com/The_Sun_Dance_Ritual.htm and
http://www.lakotawritings.com/Sun_Dance.html

http://www.albertasource.ca/natureslaws/traditions/ceremony_sun_dance.html Great Canadian website and interviews with participants and other information worthwhile to check out. Short VIDEOS of several of the sacred rites.

Native Spirit and the Sun Dance Way a 2 - DVD Documentary set for those who wish to have visual information
http://www.nativespiritinfo.com/index.html (I do not have anything to do with this documentary but bought one for myself)

http://www.blackmesais.org/anna_mae_sundance_2k1.htm Hopi tribe being arrested over the Sun Dance.

http://www.casperstartribune.net/articles/2006/07/17/news/wyoming/204d9c5af7b9842e872571ac00000200.txt More Sun Dance Cheyenne-Arapaho disruptions

http://www.brownielocks.com/sundance.html interesting website

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