Ghost Dance


The Ghost Dance began in the 1890s as a religious movement.

Historical significance that is importance to understanding the dance and it’s relevance to the culture at the time of its creation.

The ambush of white invaders, U.S. Army brutalization, and the U.S. legislative oppression of indigenous nations lead to this dance to bring optimism to the natives.

Where did it originate (tribe)

Paiutes Indians



  • Dresses and shirts were painted with magic symbols to reflect the spiritual aspects of the ceremony.
  • They were white cotton cloth. The women's dress were loose robes with wide, flowing sleeves with the moon, stars, and birds.
  • Feather headdresses
  • Shirts and leggings were painted in red.

Why was it performed?

Its soul purpose was to bring hope to the native American community… the practice of Ghost Dance was meant to bring unity, peace, and prosperity to people throughout the area.

What kind of movement it is?

  • Dancers joined hands and sidestepped counterclockwise around a circle, following the sun, while singing special songs

What does a performance consist of?

  • Performed for four or five days and was accompanied by singing and chanting, but no drumming or other musical instruments.
  • Both men and women participated


What does it sound like?

  • Drums and chanting
  • Accompaniment consists of a group of singers striking hand drums in uniso

Additional Information

The ritual dance unified all Indian people, even tribes with a tradition of conflict. The unity of these groups panicked government officials. Most ghost dancers did not embrace warlike behavior but the government reacted by killing ceremonial dancers at Wounded. After the Wounded Knee Massacre, interest and participation in the Ghost Dance movement dropped dramatically for fear of continued violence against practitioners of the religion.


Who performs it today?

  • The ghost dance is still practiced privately today.

Why is it still performed?

  • "It is performed for the same reasons because we are losing a lot of our relatives to cancer and alcohol, and the earth is in dire need of healing." ~White Dear of Autumn

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