The Lakota Ghost Dance of 1890

Narrated by: J. Bruce McRell
Length: 13 hrs and 27 mins
Categories: History, American
4 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A broad range of perspectives from natives and nonnatives makes this book the most complete account and analysis of the Lakota ghost dance ever published. A revitalization movement that swept across native communities of the West in the late 1880s, the ghost dance took firm hold among the Lakotas, perplexed and alarmed government agents, sparked the intervention of the US Army and culminated in the massacre of hundreds of Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee in December 1890.

Although the Lakota ghost dance has been the subject of much previous historical study, the views of Lakota participants have not been fully explored, in part because they have been available only in the Lakota language. Moreover, emphasis has been placed on the event as a shared historical incident, rather than as a dynamic meeting ground of multiple groups with differing perspectives. In The Lakota Ghost Dance of 1890, Rani-Henrik Andersson uses, for the first time, some accounts translated from Lakota. 

This book presents the Indian accounts, together with the views and observations of Indian agents, the US Army, missionaries, the mainstream press, and the Congress. This comprehensive, complex, and compelling study not only collects these diverse viewpoints but also explores and analyzes the political, cultural, and economic linkages among them.

The book is published by University of Nebraska Press. The audiobook is published by University Press Audiobooks.

Praise for the book:

"This is a landmark book on the Lakota ghost dance and Wounded Knee." (Choice)

"Will become a primary reference text on the subject, accessible to scholars and popular readers alike." (Great Plains Quarterly)

"Highly recommended for all those wishing to learn more about this exceedingly important chapter in Native American–white relations." (Journal of American History)

©2008 Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska (P)2020 Redwood Audiobooks

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Setting the record straight

A powerful indictment of white christian hypocrisy in America. The Lakota Ghost Dance was a ceremony, spiritual, religious, not at all belligerent. It was an expression of solidarity for a maligned and unjustly treated people. At best, the response of the US government, religious organizations and press was ignorant, merely facilitating bias and slandering a people. At worst, it was woefully hypocritical and complicit in genocide. The most damning elements in the book involve the wildly contradictory accounts by all three of the aforementioned institutions. There was never, and has never been, any evidence that the Lakota Ghost Dance was anything other than a spiritual ceremony. In a perfect world, that would require tolerance of a nation that claims to respect religious freedom. But it couldn't be that simple. More cynically, and viciously, the state and churches, aided by the press, twisted and maligned this expression borne of the sorrow of centuries of exploitation by Europeans, into a de facto declaration of war. Forget freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion. They were deprived of the freedom to live.

For the government, in one moment, the Lakota are a meager band hardly worth the attention, disgruntled over reduced provisions (promised as compensation for land in dubiously created treaties). Therefore, unworthy of consideration, an afterthought in the halls of power. The names Red Cloud and Sitting Bull hardly recognizable to eastern politicians. And in the next moment, they are a tremendous force of savage heathens prepared to kill all white people. What's to be believed? If the whole episode weren't so tragic, the hypocrisy would be laughable. It's worth noting that the Lakota idea of a world to come (heaven, if you will), free from white people and the misery they brought, would seem to preclude the need for armed revolt. But logical thought has never really been a priority for government policy.

As for religion, one needn't look too far to see the inherent hypocrisy in decrying the evils of the Ghost Dance, while engaging their own sky-grifting. It's seen in how the Lakota were viewed as primitive, savage and superstitious, yet the Christian word with its rituals, whether Catholic or Protestant, was the revealed truth of the almighty. Funny how that works.

The press of the time comes off slightly better. Most accounts are chock full of fabricated native depredations and more cynically, fear and war-mongering rhetoric. We needn't wait for the coming of the Hollywood western, the character of native people was already well on its way to being assassinated, at least in the minds of white Americans. Only the incidents of honest reporting, and the rescinding of unfounded and racist claims as reporters grew consciences gives the press any relief from scorn.

Well worth the time. It comes off a bit academic at times, acknowledged by the author. But nevertheless a valuable episode in the complex history of the Lakota and America.

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good book, stilted reader

the material was interesting. looked like it could be a good read. the narrator was very halting, like listening to a computer read. with the technical details too much for me.