The Navajo among other Native Americans, used sweat baths for spiritual and cleansing purposes. The arrival of Europeans and the diseases they brought with them prompted the use of sweat baths as a cleansing tool to ward of illness. Unfortunately, the U.S. government began to make progress in banning the use of sweat lodges by Native Americans in 1882.
Leaders of the Lakota reservations and the Beureau of American Ethnology believed that the ritual called the Ghost dance performed by the Lakota Siox, could have been what prompted the massacre of the Lakota people at Wounded Knee. It was December 29, 1890 when United States soldiers murdered more than three hundred and fifty Lakota people. The alleged reason given by the government for the rampage was that there was an “Indian Outbreak”.
On the website “Native American Times” an article talks about the Sundance ritual ad some of the history behind it. According to legend, a near starving young Lakota warrior was in search of food while being hunted by the Hohe (flathead Indians). It is said her cried out in prayer, “Great mystery, allow my brothers and sisters to hear my voice before I am destroyed!”. He was anticipating his demise and again cried out “Great messenger whose feathers extend beyond the heavens, remember me!”.
The eagle heard his cries and replied, “Brother, I am your sister. I will call upon our family’s strength to save you.” Fifty eagles appeared and six of them swooped in and rescued the young warrior. He was carried to the mountains where the Lakota lived as well as the eagles nest. The author mentions the significance of the ancestral eagles nest which symbolizes “the perfection of the great mystery”. The Sundance is an invitation of the eagles presence.
” THE SWEATLODGE CEREMONY. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2013.
“Native American Medicine – History and Information – Page 2.” Native American Medicine – History and Information – Page 2. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.
“The Ultimate Expression of Faith, the Lakota Sun Dance.” The Ultimate Expression of Faith, the Lakota Sun Dance. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2013.