Sunset on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: Raymond Bucko, SJ

Tom Cook: Sun Dances demonstrate resilience and generosity of the Lakota people

Citizens of the Oglala Sioux Tribe were once forbidden from carrying out their religious ceremonies. But their traditions remain as strong as ever, observes Tom Cook, a citizen of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe who serves as field coordinator for Running Strong for Indian Youth:
The human spirit longs for connections to the natural world, for ways to acknowledge, greet and say thank you to the life spirits behind the world perceived by human senses. It has been so for millennia with Native peoples, and with other cultures as well. The Sun Dance of the Lakota and other Plains tribes is one way this is done.

Anything spiritual needs a physical carrier, and this is what the Sun Dance provides. The procedures, formations, prayers and songs of the ritual connect the spirits of the dancers with the spirit world within, around, and beyond themselves. Along with the rigors of the dance movements, deprivation of food and water make it intense.

Last year on Pine Ridge there were 96 Sun Dances across Pine Ridge, contrasting from the early reservation period when there was only one. The Code of Indian Offenses, published in 1883, criminalized the ceremony “for having been associated with former hostilities against the U.S. government.” The criminalization of societies and ceremonial associations led directly to the dismantling and underground continuance of Lakota life.

Read More on the Story:
Tom Cook: Sun Dances: A Place to Feel God (Indian Country Media Network August 19, 2017)