Monday, July 27, 2009

Not Quite Montana - Sun Dance

So, we were invited by our friend Tommy to attend a Sioux Sun Dance this weekend. For a while we weren't sure whether to go or not (some friends in town were getting married), but after some debate, we threw stuff in the car and went. I'm a little hesitant about writing about this trip, since the people who participate in Sun Dances consider it one of their most sacred ceremonies, and not to be taken lightly.

I tried to find good online websites to describe the actual ceremony, but can't find any. There aren't even any good books for you to turn to, which makes me sad. What we were privileged enough to see and participate in was truly awesome, and I wish there were descriptions for you to read about it!

With nothing but respect for who we met and what we saw, here's a brief summary of our trip:

We left Friday afternoon and drove from Baker, Montaha to Kadoka, South Dakota. We crashed at a motel that night, and then woke up at 5am the next morning to finish the drive to St. Francis, South Dakota, a small town on the Rosebud Reservation. We (I) forgot about the time zone change, so we ended up getting there an hour later than we planned to. We drove onto the Sun Dance grounds and parked the car near the entrance. We were instructed to find a woman named Theresa, who had left. But we were shown to the "Minnesota Camp" where many people welcomed us and tried to help us feel comfortable.

This was impossible for the moment, because people were running up to the car demanding we turn around and, "get those dogs out of here!" Pets are, apparently, not allowed at this Sun Dance. So we drove to Valentine, Nebraska, and dropped them off with a sympathetic vet clinic for the weekend. Once back, we were instructed to set up our tent and enjoy the ceremony. We watched several "rounds", which is what each dance was called. They lasted about 45-90 minutes each, with a good break in between.

The Minnesota Camp offered supper for a donation, but we had prepared and brought a little grill and hotdogs. Stephan cooked while I slept for a minute. We ate, and learned that the Sun Dance was over for the day, so our friend Tommy was able to visit with us for a few hours before sunset. As a Dancer, he was not allowed to eat or drink anything from Midnight until sundown the next day, or touch water, for the four days of the Ceremony. He could eat, and he was drinking Gatorade when we found him. Here is a photo of a Sun Dancer. I don't know how this was taken; photos were strictly prohibited, as were any notes or drawings. I hope posting this photo doesn't break a rule.

We slept in the tent Saturday night (not quite so fun for a pregnant lady who needs to find an outhouse at whatever-time-in-the-morning-that-was). Well before dawn the loudspeaker projected a Lakota song across the campsite. (Click here for Lakota music, ignore the images). It was a beautiful way to wake up, which was followed by the most obnoxious "morning radio" I could have ever imagined. Two guys did a Cheech & Chong type morning show trying to wake everyone up. It was funny, but just barely pre-dawn. We woke up anyway (we were a minority of awake people) and set up our chairs to watch the first round of the morning. We stayed through two more rounds, Stephan helping wash dishes for the Minnesota Camp, and left to pick up the dogs and drive back home.

I might write more about the actual ceremony after I talk to Tommy this week. Since we were invited guests, I don't want to violate (more of) their rules. Check out the internet for Lakota, Sioux, Sun Dance and Hollow Horn Bear for more information.

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