Sun Dancers

Any other Sun Dancers out there? I’ve been dancing for 2 years and have 2 years left on my committment. Just wondering what your experiences have been and will gladly share mine. So, if any of you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Just one question. What’s a Sun Dancer?

Okay. Two questions. Why a four year committment?

Sun Dance

My questions: Do you pierce? And with whom/ where do you dance (meaning, what tribe)?

Sun Dancing is an ancient Lakota ceremony in which we dance so that other’s may live. It is a 4 day event that involves fasting, abstaining from water, and dancing from sun up to sundown.

When one pledges to dance, he/she commits to dancing in the ceremony for 4 years in his/her lifetime.

I did pierce in this year’s dance.
I dance with a Nanticoke, a Lakota, a Cherokee, a few white folks (including me), and another from a tribe whose name I don’t remember. Our intercessor brought the dance from the midwest where he learned from the Lakotas. In Delaware the only tribes are the Nanticoke and the Lenapis. Our intercessor split from the Nanticoke tribe because of differences of opinion about how strict the tribe should stick to tradition. He was in favor of being more traditional. He was the chief of the tribe and the chiefs of the Nanticoke tribe came from his family going back 5 generations. So, I don’t really dance with any tribe but it is based on Lakota tradition.

For others’ information: The sun dance is not a specifically Lakota ceremony but was/is practiced by many Plains Tribes, including the Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Crow, and Ojibway. (And the Nakota and Dakota, as well as the Lakota.) It is not necessarily about redeeming life through sacrifice (“dance so that others may live”) although it certainly can be.

Some tribes practice the Sun Dance ceremony complete with ritual mutilation; some (like the Kiowa) never included that element. Some tribes that used to include it no longer do. The Sun Dance was banned by the Canadian and U.S. government at the turn of the 20th century, ostensibly for the mutilation and probably also for its political/religious aspects. This ban was in place for something like 50 years.

ETA: Thank you for your answers.

Sorry for the confusion. It isn’t strickly a Lakota ceremony but it is thought to have originated with them. It was illegal to Sun Dance until 1974 or '75 although it was allowed in a very restricted way prior to that. That is, it was allowed as a “demonstration” during powwow’s or other social events without the piercing. And thanks for clearing up that it also practiced by other tribes.

I did not know that.

I saw many Sun Dances as a kid. I grew up smack in the middle of Plains territory, in Southern Alberta just between Brockett and Stand Off.

Most ceremonies were banned until the middle of the 20th century. Some of the Lakota continued to hold the ceremony annually, albeit clandestinely. They risked incarceration and many other things just to keep the ceremony alive. You can read more about that in Fools Crow by Thomas E. Mails and Black Elk Speaks by Neidhart.

You would have seen Blackfoot Sun Dances. From further research, it appears Canada only banned certain aspects of the Dance – specifically, the self-mutilation – and never banned Sun Dances entirely like the the U.S. did.

Fools Crow is an excellent novel, but it is by James Welch.

Do the Peigan not do them?

I danced Lakota in the '80’s. I, myself, am Creek.


Oh, yes. :slight_smile: There’s some difference in terminology betwen Canada and the U.S. (specifically, Montana), but the Blackfeet / Blackfoot peoples include the Peigan (Pikuni), the Northern Peigan (or North Pikuni), the Bloods (Kainai), and the Siksika (Blackfeet). Today, the North Pikuni, the Kainai, and the Siksika all live in Alberta and collectively form the Blackfoot Confederacy. The Pikuni in the U.S. are the Blackfeet Nation, outside Browning, Montana. So the “Blackfeet” in the U.S. are the same nation as the “Blackfoot” in Canada.

To add to the confusion, another group of Native Americans, the Sihasapa band of the Teton (Lakota) Sioux, are also called Blackfeet or Blackfoot. But since there are about 500 Sihasapa and somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 Pikuni/ Kainai/ Siksika, it is the latter group that is generally referred to as “Blackfeet” or “Blackfoot.”

Fools Crow is a novel by James Welch but Thomas E Mails spent several years with Frank Fools Crow, former Ceremonial Chief of the Teton Sioux. The book I was referring to is a biography and is followed by a second book called Wisdom and Power.