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Anne Marie Hurst was the backing vocalist  for the Goth Rock group the Elements in Keighley UK (until 1982). In December 1982, she helped form Skeletal Family. After departing from Skeletal Family in 1985, she co-founded Ghost Dance with Gary Marx (formerly of The Sisters of Mercy). Ghost Dance released several indie chart hit singles through Karbon Records, which were later compiled on the 'Gathering Dust' album. In 1989 they signed to Chrysalis Records and released the 'Stop The World' album and two more singles, with 'Down To The Wire' peaking at no.66 in the UK singles chart.

In 2019 Anne Marie reformed Ghost Dance with ex Harlequyn members, Tim Walker, Phil Noble and Dave Wood, then in 2020, Stephen Derrig (formally of Original Sin) completed the line up and work commenced on a new album. Both Harlequyn and Original Sin had played several support gigs to the original Ghost Dance line-up in the late 80's. The new single 'Falling Down' was released on Voltage Records in August 2021, with 'Jessamine' following in 2022. The new album 'The Silent Shout' is released on 5th May 2023 through Voltage Records / PHD and includes two previously unreleased Gary Marx compositions.

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Course: US history   >   Unit 6

  • The Gold Rush
  • The Homestead Act and the exodusters
  • The reservation system
  • The Dawes Act
  • Chinese immigrants and Mexican Americans in the age of westward expansion
  • The Indian Wars and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee

  • Westward expansion: economic development
  • Westward expansion: social and cultural development
  • The American West
  • By the end of the nineteenth century, due to a series of forced removals and brutal massacres at the hands of white settlers and the US Army, the native population of North America had dwindled to a mere fraction of what it had once been.
  • Because forced assimilation had nearly destroyed Native American culture, some tribal leaders attempted to reassert their sovereignty and invent new spiritual traditions. The most significant of these was the Ghost Dance, pioneered by Wovoka, a shaman of the Northern Paiute tribe.
  • The massacre at Wounded Knee, during which soldiers of the US Army 7th Cavalry Regiment indiscriminately slaughtered hundreds of Sioux men, women, and children, marked the definitive end of Indian resistance to the encroachments of white settlers.

The Ghost Dance

Clash of cultures: white europeans and native americans, the massacre at wounded knee, what do you think, want to join the conversation.

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Legends of America

Legends of America

Traveling through american history, destinations & legends since 2003., the ghost dance – a promise of fulfillment.

Ghost Dance of the Sioux

Ghost Dance of the Sioux, Illustrated in London News, 1891

The Ghost Dance (Natdia) is a spiritual movement that came about in the late 1880s when conditions were bad on Indian reservations and Native Americans needed something to give them hope. This movement found its origin in a Paiute Indian named Wovoka , who announced that he was the messiah come to earth to prepare the Indians for their salvation.

The Paiute tradition that led to the Ghost Dance began in the 1870s in the Western Great Basin from the visions of Wodziwob (Gray Hair) concerning earth renewal and the reintroduction of the spirits of ancient Numu (Northern Paiute) ancestors into the contemporary day to help them. Central to the Natdia religion was the dance itself – dancing in a circular pattern continuously – which induced a state of religious ecstasy.


The movement began with a dream by Wovoka (named Jack Wilson in English), a Northern Paiute, during the solar eclipse on January 1, 1889. He claimed that, in his dream, he was taken into the spirit world and saw all Native Americans being taken up into the sky and the Earth opening up to swallow all Whites and to revert back to its natural state. The Native Americans, along with their ancestors, were put back upon the earth to live in peace. He also claimed that he was shown that, by dancing the round-dance continuously, the dream would become a reality and the participants would enjoy the new Earth.

His teachings followed a previous Paiute tradition predicting a Paiute renaissance. Varying somewhat, it contained much Christian doctrine. He also told them to remain peaceful and keep the reason for the dance secret from the Whites. Wovoka’s message spread quickly to other Native American peoples and soon many of them were fully dedicated to the movement. Representatives from tribes all over the nation came to Nevada to meet with Wovoka and learn to dance the Ghost Dance and to sing Ghost Dance songs.

A Native American Woman Ghost Dancer Unconscious After Hours Of Emotional Ritual. Colorized

A Native American Woman Ghost Dancer Unconscious After Hours Of Emotional Ritual. Touch of color LOA.

The dance as told by Wovoka went something like this: “When you get home you must begin a dance and continue for five days. Dance for four successive nights, and on the last night continue dancing until the morning of the fifth day when all must bathe in the river and then return to their homes. You must all do this in the same way. …I want you to dance every six weeks. Make a feast at the dance and have food that everybody may eat.”

The Natdia, it was claimed, would bring about the renewal of the native society and decline in the influence of the Whites.

Paiute Ghost Dance

Paiute Ghost Dance

Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agents grew disturbed when they became aware that so many Indians were coming together and participating in a new and unknown event.

In early October 1890, Kicking Bear, a Minneconjou Sioux Indian, visited Sitting Bull at Standing Rock telling him of his visit to Wovoka. They told him of the great number of other Indians who were there as well, referring to Wovoka as the Christ.

And they told him of the prophecy that the next spring when the grass was high, the earth would be covered with new soil and bury all the white men. The new soil would be covered with sweetgrass, running water and trees and the great herds of buffalo and wild horses would return. All Indians who danced the Ghost Dance would be taken up into the air and suspended there while the new earth was being laid down. Then they would be returned to the earth along with the ghosts of their ancestors.

When the dance spread to the Lakota, the BIA agents became alarmed. They claimed that the Lakota developed a militaristic approach to the dance and began making “ghost shirts” they thought would protect them from bullets. They also spoke openly about why they were dancing. The BIA agent in charge of the Lakota eventually sent the tribal police to arrest Sitting Bull, a leader respected among the Lakota, to force him to stop the dance. In the struggle that followed, Sitting Bull was killed along with a number of policemen. A small detachment of cavalry eventually rescued the remaining policemen.

Wounded Knee Burial Site

Wounded Knee Burial Site. Photo by Kathy Alexander.

Following the killing of Sitting Bull, the United States sent the Seventh Cavalry to “disarm the Lakota and take control.” During the events that followed, now known as the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890, 457 U.S. soldiers opened fire upon the Sioux killing more than 200 of them. The Ghost Dance reached its peak just before the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.

When it became apparent that ghost shirts did not protect from bullets and the expected resurrection did not happen, most former believers quit the Ghost Dance. Wovoka, disturbed by the death threats and disappointed with the many reinterpretations of his vision, gave up his public speaking. However, he remained well-respected among his followers and continued his religious activities. He traveled and received visitors until the end of his life in 1932. There are still members of the religious movement today.

Believers in the Ghost Dance spirituality are convinced that performing the Ghost Dance will eventually reunite them with their ancestors coming by railway from the spirit world. The ancestor spirits, including the spirit of Jesus, are called upon to heal the sick and to help protect Mother Earth. Meanwhile, the world will return to a primordial state of natural beauty, opening up to swallow up all other people (those who do not have a strong spirituality based upon the earth). The performers of the Ghost Dance theoretically will float in safety above with their ancestors, family, and peoples of the world who follow the extensive spirituality.

Ghost dance - Cheyennes & Arapahoes, 1913.

Ghost Dance in 1913 with Cheyenne & Arapahoe tribal members. Photo by Adolph F. Muhr, 1913. Touch of color by LOA.

1890 Observation and Description of the Ghost Dance:

Mrs. Z.A. Parker observed the Ghost Dance among the Lakota at Pine Ridge Reservation, Dakota Territory on June 20, 1890, and described it:

We drove to this spot at about 10:30 o’clock on a delightful October day. We came upon tents scattered here and there in low, sheltered places long before reaching the dance ground. Presently we saw over three hundred tents placed in a circle, with a large pine tree in the center, which was covered with strips of cloth of various colors, eagle feathers, stuffed birds, claws, and horns-all offerings to the Great Spirit. The  ceremonies had just begun. In the center, around the tree, were gathered their medicine-men; also those who had been so fortunate as to have had visions and in them had seen and talked with friends who had died. A company of 15 had started a chant and were marching abreast, others coming in behind as they marched. After marching around the circle of tents they turned to the center, where many had gathered and were seated on the ground.

I think they wore the ghost shirt or ghost dress for the first time that day. I noticed that these were all new and were worn by about seventy men and forty women. The wife of a man called Return-from-scout had seen in a vision that her friends all wore a similar robe, and on reviving from her trance she called the women together and they made a great number of the sacred garments. They were of white cotton cloth. The women’s dress was cut like their ordinary dress, a loose robe with wide, flowing sleeves, painted blue in the neck, in the shape of a three-cornered handkerchief, with moon, stars, birds, etc., interspersed with real feathers, painted on the waists, letting them fall to within three inches of the ground, the fringe at the bottom. In the hair, near the crown, a feather was tied. I noticed an absence of any manner of head ornaments, and, as I knew their vanity and fondness for them, wondered why it was. Upon making inquiries I found they discarded everything they could which was made by white men.

The ghost shirt for the men was made of the same material-shirts and leggings painted in red. Some of the leggings were painted in stripes running up and down, others running around. The shirt was painted blue around the neck, and the whole garment was fantastically sprinkled with figures of birds, bows and arrows, sun, moon, and stars, and everything they saw in nature.

Native Plants - Native Healing

Down the outside of the sleeve were rows of feathers tied by the quill ends and left to fly in the breeze, and also a row around the neck and up and down the outside of the leggings. I noticed that a number had stuffed birds, squirrel heads, etc., tied in their long hair. The faces of all were painted red with a black half-moon on the forehead or on one cheek.

As the crowd gathered about the tree the high priest, or master of ceremonies, began his address, giving them directions as to the chant and other matters. After he had spoken for about fifteen minutes they arose and formed in a circle. As nearly as I could count, there were between three and four hundred persons.

One stood directly behind another, each with his hands on his neighbor’s shoulders. After walking about a few times, chanting, “Father, I come,” they stopped marching, but remained in the circle, and set up the most fearful, heart-piercing wails I ever heard-crying, moaning, groaning, and shrieking out their grief, and naming over their departed friends and relatives, at the same time taking up handfuls of dust at their feet, washing their hands in it, and throwing it over their heads.

Finally, they raised their eyes to heaven, their hands clasped high above their heads, and stood straight and perfectly still, invoking the power of the Great Spirit to allow them to see and talk with their people who had died. This ceremony lasted about fifteen minutes, when they all sat down where they were and listened to another address, which I did not understand, but which I afterward learned were words of encouragement and assurance of the coming messiah.

When they arose again, they enlarged the circle by facing toward the center, taking hold of hands, and moving around in the manner of school children in their play of “needle’s eye.” And now the most intense excitement began. They would go as fast as they could, their hands moving from side to side, their bodies swaying, their arms, with hands gripped tightly in their neighbors’, swinging back and forth with all their might. If one, more weak and frail, came near falling, he would be jerked up and into position until tired nature gave way.

The ground had been worked and worn by many feet until the fine, flour-like dust lay light and loose to the depth of two or three inches. The wind, which had increased, would sometimes take it up, enveloping the dancers and hiding them from view. In the ring were men, women, and children; the strong and the robust, the weak consumptive, and those near to death’s door. They believed those who were sick would be cured by joining in the dance and losing consciousness. From the beginning they chanted, to a monotonous tune, the words:Father, I come;

Mother, I come;

Brother, I come;

Father, give us back our arrows.

All of which they would repeat over and over again until first one and then another would break from the ring and stagger away and fall down. One woman fell a few feet from me. She came toward us, her hair flying over her face, which was purple, looking as if the blood would burst through; her hands and arms moving wildly; every breath a pant and a groan; and she fell on her back, and went down like a log. I stepped up to her as she lay there motionless, but with every muscle twitching and quivering. She seemed to be perfectly unconscious. Some of the men and a few of the women would run, stepping high and pawing the air in a frightful manner. Some told me afterward that they had a sensation as if the ground were rising toward them and would strike them in the face. Others would drop where they stood. One woman fell directly into the ring, and her husband stepped out and stood over her to prevent them from trampling upon her. No one ever disturbed those who fell or took any notice of them except to keep the crowd away.

They kept up dancing until fully 100 persons were lying unconscious. Then they stopped and seated themselves in a circle, and as each recovered from his trance he was brought to the center of the ring to relate his experience. Each told his story to the medicine man, and he shouted it to the crowd. Not one in ten claimed that he saw anything. I asked one Indian, a tall, strong fellow, straight as an arrow-what his experience was. He said he saw an eagle coming toward him. It flew around and around, drawing nearer and nearer until he put out his hand to take it when it was gone. I asked him what he thought of it. “Big lie,” he replied. I found by talking to them that not one in 20 believed it. After resting for a time they would go through the same performance, perhaps three times a day. They practiced fasting, and every morning those who joined in the dance were obliged to immerse themselves in the creek. – Z.A. Parker, 1890.

Ghost Dance Painting

Ghost Dance Painting

© Kathy Weiser / Legends of America , updated February 2020.

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The Father Comes Singing

There is the father coming, There is the father coming. The father says this as he comes, The father says this as he comes, “You shall live,” he says as he comes, “You shall live,” ‘he says as he comes .

– Sioux Ghost Dance Song

The Native American Ghost Dance, a Symbol of Defiance

Religious Ritual Became a Symbol of Defiance By Native Americans

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The ghost dance was a religious movement that swept across Native American populations in the West in the late 19th century. What started as a mystical ritual soon became something of a political movement and a symbol of Native American resistance to a way of life imposed by the U.S. government.

A Dark Moment in History

As the ghost dance spread through western Native American reservations , the federal government moved aggressively to stop the activity. The dancing and the religious teachings associated with it became issues of public concern widely reported in newspapers.

As the 1890s began, the emergence of the ghost dance movement was viewed by white Americans as a credible threat. The American public was, by that time, used to the idea that Native Americans had been pacified, moved onto reservations, and essentially converted to living in the style of white farmers or settlers.

The efforts to eliminate the practice of ghost dancing on reservations led to heightened tensions which had profound effects. The legendary Sitting Bull was murdered in a violent altercation sparked by the crackdown on ghost dancing. Two weeks later, the confrontations prompted by the ghost dance crackdown led to the infamous Wounded Knee Massacre .

The horrific bloodshed at Wounded Knee marked the end of the Plains Indian Wars . The ghost dance movement was effectively ended, though it continued as a religious ritual in some places well into the 20th century. The ghost dance took a place at the end of a long chapter in American history, as it seemed to mark the end of Native American resistance to white rule.

Origins of the Ghost Dance

The story of the ghost dance began with Wovoka, a member of the Paiute tribe in Nevada. Wovoka, who was born about 1856, was the son of a medicine man. Growing up, Wovoka lived for a time with a family of white Presbyterian farmers, from whom he picked up the habit of reading the Bible every day.

Wovoka developed a wide-ranging interest in religions. He was said to be familiar with Mormonism and various religious traditions of native tribes in Nevada and California. In late 1888, he became quite ill with scarlet fever and may have gone into a coma.

During his illness, he claimed to have religious visions. The depth of his illness coincided with a solar eclipse on January 1, 1889, which was seen as a special sign. When Wovoka regained his health, he began to preach of knowledge which God had imparted to him.

According to Wovoka, a new age would dawn in 1891. The dead of his people would be restored to life. Game which had been hunted nearly to extinction would return. And the white people would vanish and stop afflicting the indigenous peoples.

Wovoka also said a ritual dance which had been taught to him in his visions must be practiced by native populations. This "ghost dance," which was similar to traditional round dances, was taught to his followers.

Decades earlier, in the late 1860s , during a time of privation among western tribes, there had been a version of the ghost dance which spread through the West. That dance also prophesied positive changes to come to the lives of Native Americans. The earlier ghost dance spread through Nevada and California, but when the prophecies did not come true, the beliefs and accompanying dance rituals were abandoned.

However, Wovoka's teachings based on his visions took hold throughout early 1889. His idea quickly spread along travel routes, and became widely known among the western tribes.

At the time, the Native American population was demoralized. The nomadic way of life had been curtailed by the U.S. government, forcing the tribes onto reservations. Wovoka's preaching seemed to offer some hope.

Representatives of various western tribes began to visit Wovoka to learn about his visions, and especially about what was becoming widely known as the ghost dance. Before long, the ritual was being performed across Native American communities, which were generally located on reservations administered by the federal government.

Fear of the Ghost Dance

In 1890, the ghost dance had become widespread among the western tribes. The dances became well-attended rituals, generally taking place over a span of four nights and the morning of the fifth day.

Among the Sioux, who were led by the legendary Sitting Bull , the dance became extremely popular. The belief took hold that someone wearing a shirt that was worn during the ghost dance would become invulnerable to any injury.

Rumors of the ghost dance began to instill fear among white settlers in South Dakota, in the region of the Indian reservation at Pine Ridge. Word began to spread that the Lakota Sioux were finding a fairly dangerous message in Wovoka's visions. His talk of a new age without whites began to be seen as a call to eliminate the white settlers from the region.

And part of Wovoka's vision was that the various tribes would all unite. So the ghost dancers began to be seen as a dangerous movement that could lead to widespread attacks on white settlers across the entire West.

The spreading fear of the ghost dance movement was picked up by newspapers, in an era when publishers such as Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were beginning to champion sensational news. In November 1890, a number of newspaper headlines across America linked the ghost dance to alleged plots against white settlers and U.S. Army troops.

An example of how white society viewed the ghost dance appeared in the form of a lengthy story in the New York Times with the subheadline, "How the Indians Work Themselves Up to a Fighting Pitch." The article explains how a reporter, led by friendly Indian guides, trekked overland to a Sioux camp. "The trip was extremely hazardous, owing to the frenzy of the hostiles." The article described the dance, which the reporter claimed to have observed from a hill overlooking the camp. 182 "bucks and squaws" participated in the dance, which took place in a large circle around a tree. The reporter described the scene:

"The dancers held on another's hands and moved slowly around the tree. They did not raise their feet as high as they do in the sun dance, most of the time it looked as though their ragged moccasins did not leave the ground, and the only idea of dancing the spectators could gain from the motion of the fanatics was the weary bending of the knees. Round and round the dancers went, with their eyes closed and their heads bent toward the ground. The chant was incessant and monotonous. 'I see my father, I see my mother, I see my brother, I see my sister," was Half Eye's translation of the chant, as the squaw and warrior moved laboriously about the tree. "The spectacle was as ghastly as it could be: it showed the Sioux to be insanely religious. The white figures bobbing between pained and naked warriors and the shrill yelping noise of the squaws as they tottered in grim endeavor to outdo the bucks, made a picture in the early morning which has not yet been painted or accurately described. Half Eyes says the dance which the spectators were then witnessing had been going on all night."

On the following day the other side of the country, the front-page story "A Devilish Plot" claimed that Indians on the Pine Ridge reservation planned to hold a ghost dance in a narrow valley. The plotters, the newspaper claimed, would then lure soldiers into the valley to stop the ghost dance, at which point they would be massacred.

In "It Looks More Like War," the New York Times claimed that Little Wound, one of the leaders at the Pine Ridge reservation, "the great camp of the ghost dancers," asserted that the Indians would defy orders to cease the dancing rituals. The article said the Sioux were "choosing their fighting ground," and preparing for a major conflict with the U.S. Army.

Role of Sitting Bull

Most Americans in the late 1800s were familiar with Sitting Bull, a medicine man of the Hunkpapa Sioux who was closely associated with the Plains Wars of the 1870s. Sitting Bull did not directly participate in the massacre of Custer in 1876, though he was in the vicinity, and his followers attacked Custer and his men.

Following the demise of Custer, Sitting Bull led his people into safety in Canada. After being offered amnesty, he eventually returned to the United States in 1881. In the mid-1880s, he toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, alongside performers like Annie Oakley.

By 1890, Sitting Bull was back in South Dakota. He became sympathetic to the movement, encouraged young Native Americans to embrace the spirituality espoused by Wovoka, and apparently urged them to take part in the ghost dance rituals.

The endorsement of the movement by Sitting Bull did not go unnoticed. As the fear of the ghost dance spread, what appeared to be his involvement only heightened tensions. The federal authorities decided to arrest Sitting Bull, as it was suspected he was about to lead a major uprising among the Sioux.

On December 15, 1890, a detachment of U.S. Army troops, along with Native Americans who worked as police officers on a reservation, rode out to where Sitting Bull, his family, and some followers were camped. The soldiers stayed at a distance while the police sought to arrest Sitting Bull.

According to news accounts at the time, Sitting Bull was cooperative and agreed to leave with the reservation police, but young Native Americans attacked the police. A shoot-out occurred, and in the gun battle, Sitting Bull was shot and killed.

The death of Sitting Bull was major news in the East. The New York Times published a story about the circumstances of his death on its front page, with subheadlines described him as an "old medicine man" and a "wily old plotter."

Wounded Knee

The ghost dance movement came to a bloody end at the massacre at Wounded Knee on the morning of December 29, 1890. A detachment of the 7th Cavalry approached an encampment of natives led by a chief named Big Foot and demanded that everyone surrender their weapons.

Gunfire broke out, and within an hour approximately 300 Native men, women, and children were killed. The treatment of the native peoples and the massacre at Wounded Knee signify a dark episode in American history . After the massacre at Wounded Knee, the ghost dance movement was essentially broken. While some scattered resistance to white rule arose in the following decades, the battles between Native Americans and whites in the West had ended.

Resources and Further Reading

  • “ The Death of Sitting Bull .” New York Times , 17 Dec. 1890.
  • “ It Looks More Like War .” New York Times , 23 Nov. 1890.
  • “ The Ghost Dance .” New York Times , 22 Nov. 1890.
  • “ A Devilish Plot .” Los Angeles Herald , 23 Nov. 1890.
  • History of the Wounded Knee Massacre
  • Timeline from 1890 to 1900
  • Indian Wars: Lieutenant General Nelson A. Miles
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  • Images of Custer's Last Stand
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  • Indian Wars: Lt. Colonel George A. Custer

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Ghost Dance: A Native American Ceremony

The Ghost Dance was a nineteenth century religious movement and belief system embraced by numerous Native American tribes that happened at a time when the U.S. government threatened to erase their culture. Native Americans believed that the practice of the dance would end westward expansion and that the dead spirits of the Native American would reunite with the living and fight on their behalf. In addition, they thought the dance would bring peace, prosperity, and unity to their people and rid them of the white man, who was making their lives difficult.*

An article from Wisconsin’s Kenosha News in 1897 explained the idea of the Ghost Dance further:

“The great underlying principles of the ghost dance doctrine is that the time will come when the whole Indian race, living or dead, will be reunited upon a regenerated earth, to live a life of aboriginal happiness, forever free from death, disease and misery. On this each tribute has built a structure from its own mythology. All of this is to be brought about, not through war, but by an overruling spiritual power.” [1]

Beginnings of the Ghost Dance happened around 1869 when Hawthorne Wodziwob, a Paiute healer, experienced several visions while on a mountain top. He then organized a series of community dances to announce his vision to the people. He claimed he had taken a journey to the land of the dead and that he had received promises from souls of the recently departed that they would return to their loved ones within a period of three to four years.

Wodziwob’s vision was accepted partly because of his healer status and because community events centered on the observance of seasonal ceremonies. Wodziwob also urged people in his tribe to dance the common and customary circle dance† as he continued to preach his vision. In this zeal to spread his message he was aided by the local “weather doctor” named Tavibo, who was father to the Paiute’s spiritual prophet, Wovoka, renamed Jack Wilson.

Ghost dance creator Wovoka

Wovoka or Jack Wilson. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Wilson had experienced visions too, but perhaps his most important vision happened in 1889, the same year that Mark Twain published his novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court . Wilson’s vision on 1 January 1889 took place during a solar eclipse and he claimed that despite his young age, he was better able than Wodziwob to share his vision and he began preaching the Ghost Dance. A few years later, in 1892, when anthropologist James Mooney interviewed him, Wilson stated that in his vision he had been given the Ghost Dance and that he had been commanded to take it back to his people.

Because Native Americans were enduring difficult times, the message Wilson shared with his Paiute brethren resonated with them. Wilson promised that if the five-day dance was performed properly, Native Americans would secure their happiness and hasten the reunion of the living and deceased. Furthermore, Wilson was convinced that if every Indian in the West danced the new dance it would “hasten the event” and all evil in the world would be swept away, including many white people. He also promised that Native Americans would enjoy a renewed Earth filled with food, love, and faith.

Those who heard Wilson quickly accepted his vision and his ideas spread rapidly among various Native American tribes, such as “Paiute, Shoshoni, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Caddo, and Pawnee, [in the case of] … the Comanche, only a small minority ever engaged [and] only about one-half of the 26,000 Sioux took an active part in it.” [2] These tribes dubbed this new religious practice “Dance In A Circle.” However, because the first European contact with the practice originated with the Lakota, their expression “Spirit Dance” was adopted as a descriptive title for all such practices, which was then subsequently translated to “Ghost Dance.”

Writer E.N. Yates wrote about the Ghost Dance for McMaster’s Magazine in the late 1800s. His observations about how and why the dance was practiced was summarized in an article published in Kansas’s Wichita Eagle in January of 1900. It stated:

“The largest Ghost Dance of the Southwest Tribes was held near the Cheyenne and Arapahoe agency under the direction of Sitting Bull, September 1890. There were present about 3,000 Indians, most of the Southwestern tribes being represented. They danced almost every night until daylight for four weeks, from 600 to 800 joining in the dance circle at a time, and the religious frenzy was so intense that as many as a hundred were stretched out on the ground at the same time, wrapping in hypnotic sleep or overcome by exhaustion, while others would stand rigid, tense and immovable in one position for hours. … The Ghost Dance songs were a remarkable feature of the ceremonials. Those used in the beginning originate with the Messiah and were claimed … to have been received with the dance and formed a part of … that strange religion. But afterward there was no limit to these strange, weird chants, as most every trance subject awoke with a song. There were special songs for opening and closing. No musical instruments in use among the Indians were used. The songs of the Arapahoe are said to have been the most beautiful and sentimental. In preparation for the dance the ground was first consecrated by prayer and the ceremony of beating the earth. The decoration of the face with the sacred paint was one of the important observances. Designs were suggested by trance inspirations, and were for the most part stars, crosses, crescents, hearts and birds, especially of the eagle or magpie, which were held sacred. The petition the Great Father, by the subject to be painted, would be: ‘My Father, I have come to be painted, so that I may see my dead relatives and friends; have pity on me and paint me.’ The dance usually began at sundown and lasted until morning. When ready to begin the dance they joined hands facing inward, forming a circle. No fires were allowed to be built within the circle. The trance subjects were never disturbed; they would lie for hours wherever they chanced to fall or would stand upright and rigid until consciousness returned. Their souls were believed to be in the spirit world communing with their departed loves ones and when ready to return the immortal part would re-inhabit their bodies.” [3]

Ghost Dance by the Oglala Lakota

The Ghost Dance of 1889–1891 by the Oglala Lakota at Pine Ridge. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Ghost Dance movement quickly became a craze among many Native American tribes.‡ This of course created great fear among white settlers who saw the practice as a threat to their safety and well-being. Moreover, they claimed that such teachings were causing the Native American Indians to embrace “debauchery and crime” and supervising agents at the Bureau of Indian Affairs recognized that the Ghost Dance was often held shortly before a battle that encouraged more fear. Fears may have also been stoked by newspapers reporting on the movement, such as the one published in November 1890 by the San Francisco Examiner :

“The prophesy at the ghost dances is that the white man’s world is coming to an end, and that when the white troops come to break up their encampments and drive them back to the reservations their rifles will fall apart after the manner of Rip Van Winkle’s at the end of his long sleep. They assure their followers, too, that disease has swept away a vast number of white people, and that when they engage in combat with the Indian warriors, they will be annihilated by a deluge of boiling mud, mingled with red-hot stones. This idea was probably suggested by the geysers [in Yellowstone] … The whole country, they say, is to be buried thirty feet deep with the boiling mud. But only the white people will be destroyed, so the prophets tell them. The red men will in some miraculous manner come up through it unharmed to the surface of the new world, where they will find themselves under a new heaven, and all about them luxuriant buffalo grass will cover the face of the earth, while herds of antelope, deer, buffalo, and wild horses will cover the plains.” [4]

Ghost Dance by the Sioux

The Ghost Dance by the Sioux. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Because of the fears held by settlers and authorities at the Bureau of Indian Affairs the U.S. government decided to force Native American tribes to give up the practice. However, the United States Indian Agent in South Dakota, Daniel F. Royer, noted that the Cheyenne tribes were unwilling to cooperate with the government, and he maintained that they continued practicing the Ghost Dance. He noted this in a report dated 8 November 1890 written to Thomas Jefferson Morgan, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.:

“This ghost craze has grown since the first day of its introduction, and is growing today. There are now four large organizations on this agency ― one on the White Clay Creek, without about 600 members … one on Wounded Knee Creek, with about 250 members … one on Porcupine Creek, with about 150 members … one on Medicine Root Creek, with about 500 members, under the management of Little Wound, who is considered one of the most influential chiefs among the Sioux of this agency, and is the most stubborn, headstrong, self-willed, unruly Indian on the reservation. He has been ordained high priest over all the ghost dances, and in consequence of his elevated position he openly defies all law and orders issued by your office. During the visit of the Cheyenne Commission a few weeks ago Little Wound spoke in council to General Miles and the commission on the subject of ghost dances, and in the course of his talk he said it was the purpose of the Indians to keep the dances up as long as they pleased, and he wished what he had said taken down and sent to the Great Father at Washington, and that he wanted his people to be Indians and live like Indians, and not try to live and act like white people; that the rules of the ghost dances, if strictly complied with, would in a short time accomplish the end he desired. … There are two factions among the Indians here, ‘the non-progressive’ and the ‘progressive.’ The non-progressive, led by little Wound and his followers (the ghost dancers), who have been and are now hostile to the Department’s wishes … The progressive as those who have always stood by the agent and persisted in carrying out the orders of your Department … The ghost dance matter has resolved itself into just two propositions; the first is, will the Government stop this most outrageous practice, and by so doing encourage and stimulate the good Indians to do what is right and bring back those that will come into the fold of right, or will it be permitted to continue and tear down what has been built up in the past. I have used every means at my command to persuade the chiefs to give this ghost dance up, but all in vain. … I called in all the most prominent chiefs and talked with them in argument and persuasion, telling them that in the end they would be the ones that would suffer for perpetuating this most heathenish custom, and they simply laughed and said that they would keep it up as long as they pleased. The matter has assumed such large proportion that it is entirely beyond the control of the agent and police force, and if your Department desires to put a stop to it you can do so by sending a sufficient numbers of troops to arrest the leaders and place them in prison under guard, and then disarm the balance of the Indians on the reservation. I will be pleased to carry into effect any order you may issue.” [5]

Because Native Americans were resistant to giving up the Ghost Dance and because the US Army began to occupy the Lakota Sioux reservations, it created fear, confusion, and increased resistance among the Lakota. This eventually resulted in the Ghost Dance War and brought about the Wounded Knee Massacre that occurred on 29 December 1890 when the United States 7th Cavalry murdered between 150 to 300 men, women, and children, who were being relocated to the Sioux reservation at Pine Ridge. Most historians agree the Ghost Dance War ended when the Lakota Ghost-Dancing leader Kicking Bear met with U.S. officials, and they reached an agreement.

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Mass grave for the Lakota dead after the Wound Knee Massacre. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Although the Ghost Dance then went underground and became a clandestine or private affair, Wilson, Kicking Bear, Short Bull, and other spiritual leaders continued to share the message. Threats from the U.S. Government continued, and anyone caught participating in the dance was punished. That along with the fact that Native Americans began to realize that Wilson’s prophecies were not coming true, caused the Ghost Dance to be discontinued.

— *Disease and epidemics swept through Native American tribes in the 19th century causing widespread psychological and emotional trauma, which in turn disrupted their economic and social systems and ended their nomadic lifestyle. Then between 1830 and 1850 the U. S. Government began to initiate series of forced displacements of approximately 60,000 Native American Indians of the “Five Civilized Tribes” (the Cherokee, Muscogee “Creek,” Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations) that became known as the Trail of Tears. More trauma was experienced by Native Americans when the U.S. government regularly broke treaties and they had to face continual encroachment by the white man along with westward expansion, known as Manifest Destiny, which caused their lands to be swallowed up by the white man. Moreover, because of ethnocentricity there was a desire to end Native American tribal relationships and civilize Native American children, which meant children were sent to boarding schools with the purpose of learning and adopting the white man’s ways. †A circle or round dance is a circular community dance held usually around an individual who leads the ceremony where dancers join hands to form a large circle and where participants seek trance, exhortations and prophecy. ‡The Navajos never joined the Ghost Dance movement partly because they were more satisfied economically and socially at the time, and they had an inculcated fear of ghosts and spirits.


  • [1] Kenosha News, “ Weird Ghost Dances,” August 9, 1897, p. 4.
  • [3] The Wichita Eagle, “ The Strange Craze,” January 14, 1900, p. 10.
  • [4] The San Francisco Examiner, “ Crazed by Fanaticism,” November 24, 1890, p. 2.
  • [5] The Executive Documents of the Senate of the United States for the Second Session of the Fifty-first Congress 1 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1891), p. 14–15.

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The Meaning Behind The Song: Ghost Dance by Patti Smith

Ghost Dance is a captivating song by Patti Smith, renowned for its poetic lyrics and thought-provoking message. Released in 1978 as part of her album “Easter,” the song holds a deep significance and an array of interpretations. With a blend of rock and punk elements, Patti Smith’s Ghost Dance stands as a powerful testament to her artistry and ability to captivate audiences.

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The song’s meaning revolves around themes of rebellion, spirituality, and social consciousness. It serves as an anthem for those who refuse to accept the status quo and long for change in a world plagued by injustice. Ghost Dance evokes a sense of urgency, encouraging listeners to challenge the societal norms and fight against oppression.

In the lyrics, Patti Smith mentions figures like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, who were leaders in the Native American Ghost Dance movement during the late 19th century. This movement aimed to unite indigenous peoples and bring about spiritual and cultural renewal. By referencing these historical figures, Smith connects the struggles of the past with those of the present, emphasizing the need for solidarity and resistance.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ghost Dance by Patti Smith

1. what inspired patti smith to write ghost dance.

Patti Smith drew inspiration from various sources when writing Ghost Dance. Her admiration for Native American culture and history played a significant role, as did her desire to address societal injustices prevalent during the time the song was written.

2. Is there any specific meaning behind the title “Ghost Dance”?

The title “Ghost Dance” alludes to the Native American ritual dance that inspired the song. The Ghost Dance was seen as a way to reconnect with ancestral spirits and to find strength during times of struggle and oppression.

3. What message does Ghost Dance convey to listeners?

Ghost Dance holds a powerful message of resistance, urging listeners to question the status quo and work towards a more just society. It calls for unity and empowers individuals to stand up against societal injustices, drawing inspiration from historical figures who fought for freedom and equality.

4. How did the audience receive Ghost Dance when it was first released?

Upon its release, Ghost Dance was well-received by both critics and fans. It showcased Patti Smith’s unique blend of poetry and rock music, solidifying her status as a pioneer in the punk rock movement.

5. Does Ghost Dance contain any religious undertones?

While Ghost Dance does reference spiritual figures and movements, it does not exclusively align with any specific religious belief. Instead, the song’s lyrics evoke a universal sense of spirituality that transcends organized religion.

6. Did Ghost Dance make an impact on the music industry?

Ghost Dance is considered a significant contribution to the music industry, especially within the punk and rock genres. It showcases Patti Smith’s ability to combine poetic lyrics with powerful instrumentation, leaving a lasting impact on listeners and fellow musicians.

7. How does Ghost Dance resonate with contemporary social issues?

The themes explored in Ghost Dance continue to resonate with contemporary social issues, such as the fight against inequality, racism, and social injustice. The song’s call for unity and resistance remains relevant, inspiring individuals to take a stand against oppressive systems.

8. Are there any notable live performances of Ghost Dance?

Patti Smith has performed Ghost Dance live on numerous occasions throughout her career. Notable performances include her 1979 appearance on the television show “Saturday Night Live” and her performance at the 2016 Nobel Prize Ceremony, where she paid tribute to Bob Dylan.

9. Has Ghost Dance been covered or sampled by other artists?

While Ghost Dance has not been widely covered or sampled, it holds a special place in Patti Smith’s discography. Its uniqueness and powerful message make it less likely to be imitated or emulated by other artists.

10. How does Ghost Dance contribute to Patti Smith’s overall body of work?

Ghost Dance represents a crucial piece of Patti Smith’s body of work, showcasing her ability to combine poetic expression, social activism, and rock music. It stands as a testament to her artistic vision and dedication to making a difference through her music.

11. Are there any specific musical elements worth noting in Ghost Dance?

Musically, Ghost Dance incorporates the characteristic punk rock style of the late 1970s. It features energetic guitar riffs, driving rhythms, and Smith’s distinct vocal delivery, making it a standout track within her repertoire.

12. How has Ghost Dance resonated with fans over the years?

Ghost Dance has garnered a loyal following over the years, resonating with fans who appreciate its lyrical depth, powerful message, and Patti Smith’s captivating performance. It continues to inspire and motivate listeners to stand up for what they believe in, making it an enduring classic in Smith’s catalog.

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Ghost Dance Tour Dates

Ghost Dance Tour Dates

Anne Marie Hurst was the backing vocalist for the Goth Rock group the Elements in Keighley UK (until 1982). In December 1982, she helped form Skeletal more...

February 2024

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Opening with a theme reminiscent of “Toyland” (from Free to Be You and Me), Native American artist Bill Miller combines the idiosyncratic vocal styles of Chris Isaak and Lyle Lovett with traditional instruments to suggest a lingering Indian presence. Miller himself provides most of the instrumentation, which complements his thinly soaring vocals well.The title track is acoustic pop reminiscent of Richard Julian, while the instrumental “The Last Stand” mixes a courtship flute with aggressive rhythms. The feedback-accented “Forgive” tells a pair of stories with no final resolution. The opening theme returns at the close on “The Sun Is Gonna’ Rise,” a mournfully hopeful ballad that reminds listeners that the cycle of life never truly ends.

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Towns Empty and Farms Languish as War Stalks Israeli-Lebanese Border

More than 150,000 people have been driven from their homes on both sides of the frontier as Israeli forces clash with Hezbollah militants.

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A plume of black smoke bursts forth as a tank fires artillery. A solder covers his ears and another turns away. In the foreground ammunition is set up.

By Euan Ward ,  Roni Rabin ,  Hwaida Saad and Michael Levenson

The journalists reported from Beirut, Lebanon; Tel Aviv; and New York.

The border between Israel and Lebanon has become a landscape of abandoned towns and neglected farms as escalating tensions and tit-for-tat strikes between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants have displaced more than 150,000 people in both countries.

Prospects for an end to the cross-border hostilities have grown only dimmer since the assassination on Tuesday of a senior Hamas leader in a suburb of Beirut, the Lebanese capital, fed growing fears of a wider war. The strike has been widely ascribed to Israel.

In northern Israel, near the border with Lebanon, military orders to evacuate have kept people from their homes for nearly three months amid daily missile and rocket attacks by Hezbollah and other armed factions in Lebanon. The prolonged dislocation and economic fallout have increased pressure on the Israeli government to put an end to the attacks.

Residents Near Israel-Lebanon Border Live With Uncertainty

As the conflict between israel and hezbollah escalates, some israeli residents are making trips back to their homes along the border with lebanon despite orders to stay away, while others wait with uncertainty..

“This will take a very long time. That’s what everybody keeps saying to us. That’s what the messages that we’re receiving is that this — this will take months.” “It’s scary. I must say. We need to be sure that we’re safe in order to come and live here again in our homes.” “We have to just wait and hope for us to be able to return home.”

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“Every day people are being fired on,” said Moshe Davidovitz, who leads a regional council in the western Galilee region of northwestern Israel. “Every day they’re running into shelters. It’s intolerable, and it cannot continue. We can’t go on being ducks in a shooting range.”

Many residents near the border work in agriculture and have been all but cut off from the farms, hothouses and chicken coops that are their livelihood, Mr. Davidovitz said. Day trips to tend to their farms are fraught with risk: One farmer, a father of three, was killed in a strike launched from Lebanon last month as he drove to his apple orchards in Mattat, just south of the border.

In southern Lebanon, where many residents also work on farms, some voiced trepidation, defiance or resignation as they wrestled with whether to flee Israeli strikes on Hezbollah targets. Those who have left have received little help from Lebanon’s government, which has been hit by a financial meltdown precipitated by years of corruption and mismanagement. In Israel, the government pays for housing and meals for displaced residents.

Mohamad Srour, the mayor of Aita al-Shaab, a Lebanese town of 12,000 less than a mile from the Israeli border, said that 10 people there had been killed in the fighting along the border.

“I didn’t want to leave the town,” Mr. Srour said. “I was going back and forth. But now I have left for good.”

Imad Zayton, 69, who lives with his wife and three children in the southern Lebanese town of Deir Kifa, about 10 miles from the Israeli border, has so far chosen to stay.

“Hezbollah are defending my country,” said Mr. Zayton, who runs a small printing shop. But he added that “if things get worse,” his family would have to leave the town, though he plans to remain.

“We will have no choice,” he said.

The death of the Hamas official, Saleh al-Arouri , who was killed in an explosion, has only increased fears of a broader conflagration in the region.

At Mr. al-Arouri’s funeral on Thursday, many pledged to avenge his death as his coffin, draped in the flag of Hamas and topped with a rifle, was carried in a procession through the streets of Beirut. Mourners also carried coffins holding the bodies of two Hamas members — including a commander from its armed wing, the Qassam Brigades — who were also killed in the explosion.

“With our soul and our blood, we will redeem you!” the mourners chanted, as gunfire rang out and crowds of young men jostled one another to catch a glimpse of Mr. al-Arouri’s coffin.

When the procession arrived at a cemetery in the Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila, the voice of Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s top political leader, sounded over a speaker system, and the crowd fell silent.

“The enemy believed that assassinating the leaders would deter them,” said Mr. Haniyeh, who is based in Qatar. He added, “The enemy failed, and will never succeed.”

Other speakers echoed threats made by the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, in a speech a day earlier. “The enemy should know that the response is coming, and this incident will not go unpunished,” said one Hezbollah official, Hassan Hoballah.

On Thursday, Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Gallant, met in Tel Aviv with Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to President Biden, to discuss the crisis on the Israeli-Lebanese border. Afterward, Mr. Gallant said in a statement that there was “a short window of time for diplomatic understandings.”

The defense minister reiterated recent calls by other Israeli officials for “a new reality in the northern arena, which will enable the secure return of our citizens,” without specifying how Israel might achieve that.

The Biden administration has been pushing for a deal to ease tensions and move Hezbollah forces away from the border, but with little apparent progress. On Thursday, the Israeli military said it had responded to a new round of strikes from Lebanon by launching airstrikes at a Hezbollah observation post and an anti-tank unit.

As the fighting along the border continued, Israel’s military pressed on with its bombardment of the Gaza Strip, where nearly two million residents have been forced from their homes and many are starving, according to the United Nations. A strike on Thursday on a home west of Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza, killed at least 14 people and injured several others, including women and children, according to Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report. It said on Thursday that it had been striking Hamas infrastructure around Khan Younis and had dismantled a tunnel shaft in the area.

The displacement of Israelis is the largest in the country’s history.

Of the 200,000 Israelis who have relocated since the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7, more than 80,000 live near the border with Lebanon. The decision to move them was precipitated not only by Hezbollah’s attacks, but also by worries that the group might try an incursion similar to the Hamas one, which killed an estimated 1,200 people.

In southern Lebanon, about 75,000 people have been displaced, according to the United Nations.

One resident who has stayed put, Najib al-Amil, is a 72-year-old priest in Rmeish, a Maronite Christian town near the Israeli border where the schools and shops are closed , the streets are empty and the only remaining medical facility is a makeshift field hospital. He is determined to tend to his flock of parishioners, however dwindling it may be.

Mr. al-Amil said he and others tried to avoid areas of intense conflict, and noted that unlike the Israeli government, Lebanon’s had made no provisions for bomb shelters.

“Whatever the big leaders’ plans are, nothing is in our hands and we can’t change anything,” he said. “We are dependent on God.”

Euan Ward and Hwaida Saad reported from Beirut, Lebanon, Roni Caryn Rabin from Tel Aviv and Michael Levenson from New York. Hiba Yazbek contributed reported from Jerusalem and Ameera Harouda from Doha, Qatar.

Euan Ward is a reporter contributing to The Times from Beirut. More about Euan Ward

Michael Levenson joined The Times in December 2019. He was previously a reporter at The Boston Globe, where he covered local, state and national politics and news. More about Michael Levenson

Our Coverage of the Israel-Hamas War

News and Analysis

Israel launched strikes into southern Lebanon  against Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia , which said one of its senior commanders had been killed there, adding to concerns that Israel’s fight against Hamas in Gaza could erupt into a wider regional war.

Violence that included sexual atrocities  committed during the Hamas-led attacks on Oct. 7 in Israel amounts to war crimes and may also be crimes against humanity, two U.N. human rights experts said in a statement .

Israel has appointed one of the country’s most prominent jurists  as the ad hoc judge to sit on the bench on its behalf as it faces face accusations at the International Court of Justice that it has committed genocide in the Gaza war.

Israel said its military is starting to shift to a more targeted phase of its war in Gaza . Israeli officials have privately said that they hope to complete the transition by the end of January.

A Broader Conflict Looms: With its proxies launching attacks from Lebanon to the Red Sea and its nuclear program suddenly revived, Iran is posing a new challenge to the West  — this time with Russia and China on its side.

Tensions at an Israeli College: At the University of Haifa, a uniquely mixed institution where more than 40% of students are Arabs, anxieties about resuming classes during the war  are amplified by what is among the school’s proudest achievements — its diversity.

A U.S. Labor Shift: For decades, the most prominent American unions were largely supportive of Israel. Today, some activists are urging their unions to call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and succeeding .

Another Casualty of the War: Traditionally, Palestinians honor their dead with public funeral processions and mourning tents erected on streets for three days. But the war has made those traditions impossible to uphold .


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    The official page of the new Ghost Dance lineup featuring Anne Marie Hurst of Skeletal Family

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  19. Ghost Dance Tour Dates & Tickets 2024

    Feb 24 2024 The Pit at Newstead Ghost Dance Acoustic Show In Isolation View Tickets April 2024 Apr 18 2024 Reading, The Facebar Ghost Dance View Tickets Rated Excellent Browse Ghost Dance tour dates and order tickets for upcoming events near you. Book with, the UK's biggest entertainment guide.

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