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The role of the Sun in the Sioux Sun Dance

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In his book Sundancing: The Great Sious Piercing Ceremony, author Thomas E. Mails shares a dialogue with the famous Sioux chief Fools Crow. Fools Crow is asked: What is the role of the sun in the Sun Dance? Are the Sioux sun worshipers? Do the Sioux believe that the sun is God?

Sundancing: The Great Sioux Piercing Ceremony

by Thomais E. Mails
page 174

I asked him [Fools Crow] then about the role of the sun in the Sun Dance. Serveral writers have claimed that the Sioux were and are sun worshipers, and while some ancient informants may have led them to that conclusion I personally doubted it. What was Fools Crow’s opinion. I wanted to know.


“Much has been said about the role of the sun in the Sun Dance. To us it is like the Sacred Pipe. It knows everything. They are both instruments used by Wakan-Tanka, and the greatest instrument of service he has next to the directions is the sun. The sun is not God. The sun is something He created for the world. We pay homage to it because it watches over the worlds and sees everything that is going on. It also serves God by bestowing peculiar gifts upon the world. I want to emphasize again that the sun is not God. There is only one true God, and the Sioux have believed this for as far back in time as we can remember.

It is also said that we stare continually at the sun while we dance. But we have never done that. Part of the time we have our backs to it and we are staring at the cloth banners on the top of the [Sun Dance] Tree. These are the same four colors as we use in the Yuwipi cermony, but their sequence is just the opposite. The pledgers and I do pray to God through the sun. We ask for strength to complete the Sun Dance, and that our prayers will be heard. As the pledgers continue to do this, they are finally able to see the sun with their eyes completely open. It doesn’t blind them, and in it we see visions – which the pledgers usually keep to themselves. No one should be surprised at all this. Many wonderful and mysterious things happen at the Sun Dances to prove that Grandfather’s [Wakan-Tanka] power is active in our midst.”

To the Plains Indians, the Sun Dance has traditionally been a profound religious ceremony, the highest form of worship of the Most Holy One. Thomas E. Mails was invited to attend and record in detail the Sioux Sun Dances at Rosebud and Pine Ridge. This was a singular honor no white man has been accorded before or since. The result is this groundbreaking work, illustrated with rare photographs and stunning four-color paintings.

Source: Sundancing: The Great Sioux Piercing Ceremony

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 16th, 2019 at 9:39 pm and is filed under Books.

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