Sun Dance

Sketch of a Siouan Sun Dance by George Catlin

Many cultures had a form of Sun dance but the culture that is most often thought of in relation to this is the Native American Indian culture. It can perhaps be classed more of a ritual than a dance.

The Sun Dance was an important form of sacrifice and thanksgiving to many tribes.

The Sun Dance was performed in either the late spring or the early summer, when all the bands of the tribe were reunited after the winter. The dance was held during the time of the month when the moon was full so that the creator's light would be shining upon the whole world. At the time of the dance everyone would assemble at an encampment where the Sun Lodge was to be built. They formed a great circle. The people would come to this area from every direction visiting, laughing, and singing. They wore their best clothes, rode the best horses, and brought as much food as was possible for feasting. There was friendship and kindness. A coal -which symbolized an eternal light - was burned through each night of the dance, but allowed to go out during the daytime.

There was a feeling of happiness, great will and hope for the next year among all the people when the Sun Dance was over.

The entire ceremony lasted about ten days and after it was completed the sacred objects would be wrapped and taken home for the next Sun Dance gathering. The offerings and the lodge were left as they were for the weather to deal to deal with in time. The settlers to America thought that the Sun Dance was a heathen ceremony were the Sun was worshipped in a gruesome way. Since the settlers saw self torture and heathenism in the dance they prohibited it in the 1880's and from 1904 to 1935 the Sun Dance was banned. Now the Sun Dance is allowed in a much milder form.

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