The Sun Dance
By Mark Kodama
May 23, 2019
It was the summer of 1876.
The great white father was demanding that we sell our land to them – land that was not ours to sell – and then move to the reservation – where only hardships and starvation awaited us.
The buffalo was dying fast as white hunters shot them on the plain, taking only their skins and leaving their carcasses to rot on the plains.
The prophet Sitting Bull called for us to resist.
He called for us to meet in council.
He called for a sun dance.
There they would offer themselves to the creator.
There the creator through the buffalo would provide answers to them.
Plains Indians – the Sioux, the Cheyenne and the Arapaho — answered Sitting Bull’s call in great number joining his Hunkpapa Lakota at his camp near the Wolf Mountains.
A large forked cotton wood center pole was raised by ropes and its base slid into a hole – the center of the sacred lodge and the center of the universe.
The world was out of balance.
The creator would tell them how to restore it.
Twelve cotton wood poles were raised in a circle around the center pole, representing the twelve months of the year.
The dancers entered the sweat lodge, made of willow branches and buffalo robes.
Water was poured over rocks heated by fire.
Afterward, the sun dancers entered the sacred lodge.
The chief and host prayed to the great creator.
They stuffed the nostrils of the buffalo that hung high on the center pole with sweet sage.
The sun dancers with painted faces and adorned with feathers danced back and forth to the center pole, blowing their whistles made from the wing bones of an eagle.
Each dancer held an eagle plumb in each hand.
Drummers drummed and singers sang the four sacred songs, each four times.
First they faced to the east and then to the west.
They rested then danced again.
Juniper wreaths crowned their heads.
Some dancers – wore necklaces of elk teeth – as they looked at the sun – the source of all life and energy on earth.
Sitting Bull’s face was covered with yellow paint.
The dancer — hungry and thirsty – fasted.
Sitting Bull gave 100 pieces of flesh from his arms, dripping with blood.
They were seeking visions sent by the creator.
“Grandfather,” Sitting Bull said “I offer the only thing that belongs to me – my body.”
Time seemed to slow down.
Sitting Bull could hear each individual drum beat and shriek of the eagle born whistles.
The voices of the singers sounded faraway.
He could smell the sweet smell of grass that carpeted the sacred lodge.
The light of the sun flashed as the lodge began to spin.
The buffalo head began to speak to him in mumbled tones he could not yet understand.
Sitting Bull knew hiss vision was coming.
The host covered him in cattails and sweet sage.
The prophet could see hundreds of white soldiers, a thick as locusts, riding their horses upside down into the village.
Suddenly they began to fall dead from the sky.
The warriors would win a great victory over the soldiers.
“Do not to take the spoils of the bodies or touch the bodies,” the buffalo warned, “or your people and their children will forever suffer for this. Leave them where they lay.”
On the third day the dancers were given water.
The ordeal is over.
The camp soon moved to the Greasy Grass River.
The Greasy Grass River was also known as the Little Big Horn.
Gen. George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Calvary were on their way.
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