Sioux Ghost Dance

The Ghost Dance movement was a religious belief system with Cargo Cult elements that combined Christian dogma with traditional beliefs and a yearning for the better days of bygone eras. It started in the 1860s and peaked in 1890. Government reaction to the movement was the brutal massacre at Wounded Knee. To learn more, see:

Newspaper article from The Chillicothe Constitution [MO] 15 Nov 1890, pg 4


Dramatic Scene Before Agent


She Claims to Be Mother of the Red
Messiah -- Chief Gall, Though Skeptical,
Is Not Prepared to Say the Thing
is Impossible.

Standing Rock Agency, N. D.,

Nov. 15. -- "Bring in the Virgin Mary" was the order of the Indian who officiated as bailiff of the Indian court, of which Chief John Grass and two other Sioux are members. Out from the murmuring crowd in the large room came Waltitawin (scarlet woman), the wife of Iikpoga and a member of the Walokpis band of Sioux Fearlessness was the leading element of her attitude as she stood gracefully before the railing, behind which sat the agent and his interpreter, and looked indifferently at John Grass and the two other Indians who composed the court.

"Who are you, and what is your name?" were the first questions asked her. Drawing herself to her full stature of nearly six feet she told her name, then, bending slightly forward with her hand pointed upward, she said in a low tone, with intense earnestness: "I am the mother of Christ who is now upon this earth, making preparation for rebuilding it. The earth is to belong solely to his chosen people, and this continent is to be extended much further west, taking in a part of the great sunset water. The eastern part of the continent will be abandoned, all but in the western part where great herds of buffalo will wander as in days long ago, and with the disappearance of the whites from the earth will come the resurrection of all the Indians who now sleep, and forevermore they will wander over the earth with no one to question their rights to kill the buffalo, none to say: 'Do this or I will put you in the guard house.' "

With a gesture to attract the particular attention of Major McLaughlin, she drew an imaginary line upon the floor and stepped over it, saying: "In those days there will be no reservation, no messenger from the Great Father to say to the Indians: 'Come back here; stay on your reservation.' " She continued to expatiate upon the rosy-tinted dawning of the Indians millenium morning until stopped by the court.

She refused to tell any thing about the orgie of the Ghost Dance beyond the fact that she had been proclaimed by the members of the order to be the Virgin Mary.

Pending an interview with the woman's husband, and consideration by the court as to the disposal of her case, she was sent to the guard house, to which she walked with the air of a theatrical martyr. The last case tried by the court for the day was that of an Indian who blonged on the Rosebud reservation, and was wandering around among the Indians of Standing Rock without a pass from the Rosebud agent or commission from the agent at Standing Rock. He was supposed to be the bearer of messages from the Indians of the Rosebud Agency relative to the coming of the Messiah, and when arraigned before the court and questioned as to his mission he explained that his wife belonged to the Standing Rock Agency, and that he went to the Rosebud agent and requested a pass to go visiting his wife's relatives, but that the agent refused to give him permission. Then he concluded he would come to Standing Rock to live, and he wished to be taken upon Major McLaughlin's list. He was questioned as to his belief in the coming of the Messiah, and it was found that he not only believed that the Messiah was coming and that he would bring with him the buffalo, but he would also have the power to furnish each Indian with a spring wagon by the mostion of his hand. This man was sent to the guard house to be confined until morning, when he was to be taken to the line between the two agencies, and, after being warned not to return, was to be turned loose upon his own reservation.

Chief Gall treated the matter very seriously and said to a reporter: "I listen. Since this excitement has come upon my people I sit and listen and wonder if these things can be possible. When they tell me that the buffalo are coming back and that there is to be a resurrection of our fathers I shake my head. They tell me that the Messiah can make spring wagons with a motion of his hand. I think this can not be. But sometimes I think of the wonderful things which white men believe in their religion, and I am not so sure that these Indians are wrong. I went to the office of a St. Paul paper and talked through a machine to some one a long way off, and since then I can not say that any thing is impossible. Your people believe that in the beginning of the world wonderful things were done by men; the Indians believe that in the future wonderful things may be done by men. It seems to me tha the Indians are not justly accused of being crazy, for believing that what has happened once may not happen again, I listen. But I take no part in the dance, and I do not lend my sanction to it. The Indians want the good old times, to most of them known only by tradition, without stopping to think how much better they are situated now than if the Government were to withdraw its support. Yesterday 140 cattle were killed here and distributed among the people. This shows to me that the Government does not want the Indians to starve."

A paragraph among general news elsewhere on same page says:

General Ruger, U. S. A., has returned from the Standing Rock agency, where he has been investigating the threatened outbreak of the Indians in expectation of the arrival of their long looked for Messiah. He says that the excitement has subsided and no trouble is anticipated.

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