Sioux Sun Dance

Sioux Sun Dance

Late June
Although many North American Indian tribes hold ritual dances in honor of the sun and its life-giving powers, the Sioux were known to hold one of the most spectacular. Usually performed during the Summer Solstice, preparations for the dance included the cutting and raising of a tree that would be considered a visible connection between the heavens and earth, and the setting up of teepees in a circle to represent the cosmos.
Participants abstained from food and drink during the dance itself, which lasted from one to four days, and decorated their bodies in the symbolic colors of red (sunset), blue (sky), yellow (lightning), white (light), and black (night). They wore deerskin loincloths, wristlets and anklets made out of rabbit fur, and carried an eagle-wing bone whistle in their mouths. The dance often involved self-laceration or hanging themselves from the tree-pole with their feet barely touching the ground. Sometimes the dancers fell unconscious or tore themselves loose, which was considered evidence that they'd had a visionary experience. After the dance, they were allowed to have a steam bath, food, and water.
See also Arapaho Sun Dance; Southern Ute Tribal Sun Dance
SOURCES:
DictFolkMyth-1984, p. 1088
EncyNatAmerRel-2001, p. 291
EncyRel-1987, vol. 14, p. 143
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