May 23, 2004

Islamist Ghost Dancers

Are Islamists the Ghost Dancers of the 21st century?

All hope of defeating the United States militarily was gone, grinding poverty was endemic, and assimilation was the policy of the U. S. government. The arrival of railroads brought waves of settlers into former Indian lands. Wovoka’s message of a new golden age was therefore received with great enthusiasm, and it spread quickly among the tribes of the Great Basin and the Great Plains. Many tribes sent delegates to visit Wovoka, hear his message, and receive instructions for the dance. Throughout the year 1890 the Ghost Dance was performed, stimulating anticipation of a return of the old ways.

The Plains Indians added a new twist to the Ghost Dance message, a belief that the great changes at hand would include the eradication of whites, or at least their being driven away from Indian lands. Some, especially the Lakota, went farther yet, creating in mid-1890 “ghost shirts” and “ghost dresses,” special garments that were believed to be bulletproof–indeed, impenetrable by any kind of weapon. The shirts were decorated with symbols of religious significance–sun, moon, stars–and often adorned with eagle feathers.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at May 23, 2004 04:18 PM
Comments & Trackbacks

× Network: