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Plains Indians Essay

Project id 1012536
Subject area Self Improvement
Document type Essay
Words 2116
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For many tribes of Plains Indians whose bison-hunting civilization flourished during the 18th and 19th centuries, the sun dance was the major communal religious ceremony... the rite celebrates renewal - that the religious rebirth of participants along with their loved ones as well as the regeneration of the living earth with all of its elements... The ritual, between sacrifice and supplication to assure balance between all living beings, has been practiced by most modern indigenous Americans. -Elizabeth Atwood LawrenceAs the main ritual of the nomadic Plains Indians, the Sun Dance in itself presents many ideas, beliefs, and values of the civilizations. Throughout its rich symbolism and complex rituals we can catch a glimpse into these peoples' view of the world. A Sun Dance is held if a guy feels the need for a dancer to meet certain wishes, mostly "for his deliverance from his issues, for supernatural aid, and for beneficent blessings upon all of his people." (Welker) It is this dancer who normally occupies the expenses of their Sun Dance (Atwood), including a feast for all that comes to the celebration. (Welker) Motivations supporting the Sun Dance varies slightly between tribes. The Crow maintained the service to seek help for revenge for relatives killed in warfare. The whole event enclosing the Sun Dance normally lasts from four to seven days, though longer occasions exist. On the very first day a tree is selected to function as sun-pole, the center rod for the Sun Dance Lodge, or New-Life-Lodge, as predicted by the Cheyenne. (Atwood) The selection of the tree is typically done by the eldest woman of the camp, who directs a set of elaborately dressed maidens to the shrub to strip off its own branches. On the next morning, right as the sun is observed over the eastern horizon, armed forces charge the sun-pole. They strike the tree in effort to symbolically kill it with gunshots and arrows. When it is dead it is cut down and carried to wherever the Sun Dance Lodge is going to be erected. (Schwatka) "Prior to increasing the sun-pole, a brand new buffalo head having a extensive center strip of the rear of the tail and mask (is) secured with powerful throngs towards the top crotch of the sun-pole. Then the pole (is) raised and place securely in the floor, together with the buffalo head facing ! Toward the setting-sun." (Welker) The tree signifies the center of earth, connect...

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