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Wovoka and the Ghost Dance
Digital History ID 704

Author:   Porcupine

Annotation: In 1889, a Paiute named Wovoka began to preach a religious doctrine that combined elements of Christianity and traditional Indian beliefs. He promised that if the Indians followed a special ritual whites would disappear and the dead would return. In this extract, Porcupine, a member of the Cheyenne nation, describes Wovoka's teachings.

Document: He said, “I am the man who made everything you see around you. I am not lying to you, my children. I made this earth and everything on it. I have been to heaven and seen your dead friends and have seen my own father and mother. In the beginning, after God made the earth, they sent me back to teach the people, and when I came back on earth the people were afraid of me and treated me badly. This is what they did to me [showing his scars]. I did not try to defend myself. I found my children were bad, so went back to heaven and left them. My father told me the earth was getting old and worn out, and the people getting bad, and that I was to renew everything as it used to be, and make it better.”

He told us also that all our dead were to resurrected; that they were all to come back to earth, and that as the earth was too small for them and us, he would do away with heaven, and make the earth itself large enough to contain us all; that we must tell all the people we meet about these things. He spoke to us about fighting, and said that was bad, and we must keep from it; that the earth was to be all good hereafter, and we must all be friends with one another. He said that in the fall of the year the youth of all the good people would be renewed, so that nobody would be more than 40 years old, and that if they behaved themselves well after this the youth of everyone would be renewed in the Spring. He said if we were all good he would send people among us who could heal all our wounds and sickness by mere touch, and that we would live forever....

Source: Fourteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology (1896), Part 2, 793-96.

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