Activity 1: The Ghost Dance

The Ghost Dance was the vision of a Paiute prophet, Wovoka. As a nonviolent religious movement that was spread among the Plains peoples during the 1880s, its focus was the preservation of Native American culture against the encroachment of the white man.

Believers participated in ecstatic dances and communal ceremonies so that a new age of peace and prosperity would dawn for Native Americans. In 1890 the movement ended when U.S. soldiers attacked a group of worshipers at Wounded Knee, killing about 250 people.

The following two activities provide opportunities for students in grades 7-12 to gain an understanding of the Ghost Dance and its influence on the events leading up to the Wounded Knee massacre of 1890.

Students will be asked to gather and organize information from various sources and write either an expository paper (suggested for grades 7-9) or an opinion paper (suggested for grades 10-12).

Several Web resources are provided, but further research is encouraged.

Ghost Dance: Description

Ask students to write a one-page description of the Ghost Dance. Their description should include history of the Ghost Dance religion, rituals of the Ghost Dance, factors in the rise of the Ghost Dance among the Sioux in the 1800s, and the influence of the Ghost Dance on the events leading up to the Wounded Knee conflict. Students should use at least three sources in their research for this assignment. Sources should be cited at the end of the paper.

Ghost Dance: Opinion

Ask students to write a one-page essay that states their opinion on the role of the Ghost Dance in the conflict at Wounded Knee. Consider these questions: Was the Ghost Dance a major factor in causing the conflict? Why or why not? How might events have been different if some of the Sioux people had not adopted the Ghost Dance religion and practices? How did the white peoples’ fears of the Ghost Dance affect the outcome? Were those fears justified? Students should use at least three sources in their research for this assignment. Sources should be cited at the end of the paper.

In Preparation:

  1. Introduce the topic of the Ghost Dance and review segments of Lost Bird of Wounded Knee to gain a perspective on the religion and its effects on the events leading up to the Wounded Knee conflict.
  2. Provide students with the suggested web sites for research and tell them they are to use at least three sources for their research. These sites may be included in the research requirement, but further research is encouraged. Provide students with examples of other sources they may use. Provide students with guidelines for citing sources.

Check out:

 

Standards: (Source: McREL K-12 Standards at www.mcrel.org)

Historical Understanding Standard 2: Understands the historical perspective.

 

Level 3 (Grade 7-8)

  • 2. Analyzes the influence specific ideas and beliefs had on a period of history.

Level 4 (Grade 9-12)

  • 1. Analyzes the values held by specific people who influenced history and the role their values played in influencing history.
  • 2. Analyzes the influences specific ideas and beliefs had on a period of history and specifies how events might have been different in the absence of those ideas and beliefs. (Opinion activity)

 

U. S. History Standard 19: Understands federal Indian policy and United States foreign policy after the Civil War.

 

Level 3

  • 1. Understands interaction between Native Americans and white society.

Level 4

  • 2. Understands influences on and perspectives of Native American life in the late 19th century.

Language Arts Standard 1: Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process.

 

Level 3

  • 6. Writes expository compositions. (Description activity)
  • 10. Writes persuasive compositions. (Opinion activity)

Level 4

  • 7. Writes expository compositions. (Description activity)
  • 9. Writes persuasive compositions that evaluate, interpret, and speculate about problems/solutions and causes and effects. (Opinion activity)

 

Web Resources:

http://www.sdpb.org/tv/lostbird/ghostdance.htm

  • Web page for the SD Public Broadcasting documentary Lost Bird of Wounded Knee.

http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/wpages/wpgs680/gddescrp.htm

  • Web page for the PBS documentary The West.

http://www.dickshovel.com/WKc.html

  • Looks at the Ghost Dance from the Lakota perspective in an essay that asks "Are we about to do it again?"

http://php.indiana.edu/~tkavanag/visual5.html

  • Images and recollections of the Ghost Dance from illustrator and photographer James Mooney.

http://msnbc.com/onair/msnbc/TimeandAgain/archive/wknee/ghost.asp

  • MSNBC web page on the Ghost Dance
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