Tag Archive: sun dance

A Brief History of The Sun Dance

For those that are just joining my journey now, the last post has been taking my readers with me through the sun dance.  It was an incredible experience that I am still processing. And I feel it is important to share this experience with anyone who wants it. To catch up to this post you can read “The Sun Dance”.

I first read of the sun dance in “Black Elk Speaks” narrated by John G. Neihardt, and then in “Two Ravens: The Life and

 Teachings of a Spiritual Warrior” by Louis Two Ravens Irwin and Robert Liebert. Black Elk was a Sioux elder and medicine man,


Howard Terpning - Prepare for Sun Dance

Howard Terpning – Prepare for Sun Dance

who lived through some of the horrendous years of white aggression (not that it’s over!) and believed the sun dance was for people of all races and colour.  Two Ravens was a leader in the radical American Native Movement group (AIM) earlier in his life; he later changed his views (see “Building Bridges Beneath the Sacred Tree”), and was a major influence in bringing the sun dance to all people.

Sun Dance was forbidden by the white authorities, and was finally allowed and not interfered with, thanks to leaders like Black Elk.  Some tribes – notably the Lakota Nation – allow only native dancers.  I participate in a sun dance open to all peoples.

It takes a year to prepare for the sun dance.  A dance chief is selected and begins the process of planning space, requirements, meals, preparation of the ceremonial lands and of the dance arbor.  Closer to the time, the grounds are cleared and made ready, then the many supporters who make the sun dance possible spend weeks putting all the structures in place to feed and protect and support ceremonially the participants.  The tree is decorated, room is made for the ancestors.  The bodies of the dancers are purified by way of a sweatlodge.  Finally, the arbor is blessed and sealed and the dance begins.

Next week I will talk about how I personally am impacted by participating in the sun dance.

Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.