Thursday, July 28, 2016
Ghost Dance Sketch for a New Piece Part 1 and 2
I've wanted to do another Ghost Dance bronze for years. I did one back in the early 90s, it was called, "Dance of Dreams". The Ghost Dance religion (or movement) was an answer to the subjugation of Native Americans by the U.S. government. It was an attempt to revitalize traditional culture and to find a way to face increasing poverty, hunger, and disease, all representing the reservation life of the Native Americans in the late nineteenth century. The Ghost Dance originated among the Paiute Indians around 1870. However, the tide of the movement came in 1889 with a Paiute shaman Wovoka (Jack Wilson). Wovoka had a vision during a sun eclipse in 1889. In this vision he saw the second coming of Christ and received warning about the evils of white man. The messianic religion promised an apocalypse that would destroy the earth and the white man. The earth then would be restored to the Native Americans. Salvation of individuals was to be achieved by purging oneself of the evil ways learned from the whites. The religion required frequent ceremonial cleansing, meditation, prayer, chanting and of course dancing the Ghost Dance. Each ceremony lasted for five successive days. The participants danced each night, on the last night the dance continued until morning. The ceremony was to be repeated every six weeks. Within a year, the new religion spread throughout the Native camps in the West, giving Native people the much needed hope. White settlers reacted differently to the new religion. Some traveled to the reservations to observe the dancing, others feared the possibility of an Indian uprising. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) eventually banned the Ghost Dance, because the government believed it was a precursor to renewed Native American militancy and violent rebellion. The reaction of the BIA is somewhat ironic, since one of the goals of the agency was to convert the Natives to Christianity. The agency did not recognize that the Ghost Dance religion's fundamental principles were parallel with Christianity and brought many Indians to believe in one God. Misunderstanding and ignorance were part of the BIA decision. Wovoka's message clearly promoted pacifism and warned before making any trouble with the whites or refusing to work for them. However, spreading rumors of Indian treachery ignited fear and panic. In November 1890, president Benjamin Harrison ordered the military to take control over Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota. On December 29, 1890, 300 Lakota men, women and children were killed in an event that came to be known as the Massacre of Wounded Knee. What started as a peaceful religious movement in 1889, was brutally ended a year later by the U.S. military. The photos below are of "Dance of Dreams" created in 1991.