- Ghost Dance Religion and National Identity.
Heise, Tammy Rashel, Porterfield, Amanda, Frank, Andrew, Corrigan, John, Kelsay, John, Florida State University, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Religion
Revising earlier historical interpretations of the Ghost Dance, this dissertation traces the religion's emergence as an American Indian prophet movement and describes its intersections with evangelical Protestantism and Mormonism in the Far West from the mid-nineteenth century to the late-twentieth century. This project problematizes earlier studies by taking a longer view of Ghost Dance religion and incorporating its engagement with and resistance to Protestantism and Mormonism into the...
Show moreRevising earlier historical interpretations of the Ghost Dance, this dissertation traces the religion's emergence as an American Indian prophet movement and describes its intersections with evangelical Protestantism and Mormonism in the Far West from the mid-nineteenth century to the late-twentieth century. This project problematizes earlier studies by taking a longer view of Ghost Dance religion and incorporating its engagement with and resistance to Protestantism and Mormonism into the narrative. It also seeks to correct interpretations that focus solely on the Ghost Dance's 1890 manifestation and the violence of federal suppression at Wounded Knee, thereby eliding the movement's broader cultural context before and after the massacre. By examining the confluence of historical encounters, political forces, and the perceptions they engendered, this study distinguishes Ghost Dance religion from other American Indian prophet movements and demonstrates how its 1890 and 1973 manifestations marked crisis points in American history through which national authority was exerted and thereby consolidated. By reconceptualizing American history through Native American history, this dissertation also discloses the union of religion and politics at work in the Ghost Dance and the prophetic traditions of its major competitors as they sought to enshrine their own versions of American nationalism in the West. The first chapter of this project aims to situate its contribution by discussing how reactions to the violence at Wounded Knee in 1890 shaped the historiography of the Ghost Dance movement and constrained interpretations of the movement in significant ways. Chapter two traces the emergence of Ghost Dance religion to the activity of the Bannock Prophet and his efforts to forge an alliance between American Indians and Mormons in opposition to U.S. rule at the start of the Utah War in 1857. Chapter three details the general war against whites in the West that results from the collapse of Bannock and Mormon efforts to unite as a single people through their perceived prophetic affinities. Through the examination of this conflict, the study reveals how religious identities are performed through violence – a process that results in the emergence of highly politicized and radicalized national identities. Chapter four connects manifestations of the Ghost Dance in the late 1860s and early 1870s to this tradition of spirited resistance to U.S. authority, demonstrating how Ghost Dance adherents ordered their opposition to white rule through a powerful fusion of religious and social realities that galvanized collective identity and motivated action to create a new world. Chapter five adds to this discussion by narrating Ghost Dance manifestations of the late 1880s and early 1890s within this context to reveal the revolutionary potential inherent in Wovoka's prophetic ministry. This focus works to erode lines between militancy and quietism as well as politics and religion drawn in earlier studies, revealing how prophetic religion functions to create and to sustain national identity. The final chapter investigates the persistence of Ghost Dance religion into the twentieth century, tracing its history through the Saskatchewan Dakota's New Tidings community and the American Indian Movement's 1973 takeover of Wounded Knee. In examining how both groups express their connection to the radical millennialism of the nineteenth-century Lakota Ghost Dance, this study reveals how prophetic religion works to mediate political engagement in complex ways and further confirms the union of religion and politics within the Ghost Dance movement.
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