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HON 362 Native American Philosophy and Spirituality

This guide provides a selected information on the Great Plains Indians' Sun Dance ceremonies

Sun Dance / Sundance - Introduction

"The Sun Dance is a distinctive ceremony that is central to the religious identity of the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains. It developed among the horse-mounted, bisonhunting nations who populated the Great Plains in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Those nations at the core of its practice in the bison-hunting era that have continued its practice into the contemporary period include the Arapahos, the Cheyennes (...), the Blackfoot (...), and the Sioux (...).

From these four nations, the Sun Dance ceremony spread to the Kiowas and Comanches, who ranged the Southern Plains, and to Northern Plains nations such as the Plains Crees of Saskatchewan and the Sarcees of Alberta, as well as to virtually every other Plains nation in the land between these two extremes, including the Arikaras, Assiniboines, Crows, Gros Ventres, Hidatsas, Mandans, Pawnees, Plains Ojibwas, Poncas, Shoshones, and Utes.

The Canadian and U.S. governments perceived this ceremony as superstitious rather than religious and suppressed it, and full liberty to practice the Sun Dance was regained only after the mid–twentieth century. Some Sun Dances, including the Kiowa, Comanche, and Crow ceremonies, ended in the nineteenth century. Others persisted clandestinely through the time of suppression. The Crows in 1941 formally renewed practice of the ceremony by receiving the Shoshone form as their own.

The name Sun Dance derives from the Sioux identification of it as Wi wanyang wacipi, translated as "sun gazing dance." (...)"

(Adapted from the Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, @ 2011 University of Nebraska- Lincoln,


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Sun Dance ceremonies on YouTube