JANUARY 1, 1889

PAIUTE PROPHET WOVOKA’S VISION LEADS TO THE “GHOST DANCE”

Paiute shaman Wovoka (aka Jack Wilson, 1856-1932) had a prophetic vision during a solar eclipse which resulted in the messianic Ghost Dance religion.  The religion involved, among other tenets, resurrection of dead, return of the buffalo, and removal of settlers from Native lands. His teachings spread quickly among Native Americans, especially the Lakota, and caused white settlers and officials concern.  Indian agents felt that the Lakota developed a militaristic approach to the dance and began making “ghost shirts” they thought would protect them from bullets. In December 1890, the Bureau of Indian Affairs  sent the tribal police to arrest Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull, a follower of the Ghost Dance.  In the ensuing struggle, Sitting Bull was killed along with a number of policemen.  On December 29, 1890, the Seventh Cavalry surrounded a Minneconjou band of Lakota followers led by “Big Foot” and an attempt to disarm them led to the Wounded Knee Massacre in which soldiers killed more than 250 Lakota.

Source:  Kathy Weiser, “Wovoka—Paiute Medicine Man & the Ghost Dance,” Legends of America, updated December 2017.  Retrieved 6/5/2019, https://www.legendsofamerica.com/na-wovoka/
Photo:  Author and date unknown.  National Archives & Records Administration.  Public domain. Photograph taken by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.

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