God’s Red Son: The Survival of the Ghost Dance

Lecture Description

In 1889, a pan-Indian religion began to sweep the Far West. By 1890 the Ghost Dance religion – – as it came to be known – – was exhilarating believers on over thirty reservations with visions of earthly renewal and the return of Indian autonomy. Almost every textbook teaches that the new beliefs perished in the army massacre of nearly 200 believers in the ravine at Wounded Knee Creek late that year. But in fact, the Ghost Dance did not die. It went on to a long life, surviving into the early decades of the twentieth century and influencing religious practice long after. How did the Ghost Dance survive? In what ways did the teachings of Wovoka, the Northern Paiute prophet who originated the religion, resonate with far-flung Indian people at into the early twentieth century? Answering these questions with long-ignored sources illuminates how the Ghost Dance incorporated pragmatic teachings about work, community, education, and twentieth-century life for Indian peoples seeking a path through the reservation era.


American Indian Religion

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