A Whirlwind Passed through Our Country
Lakota Voices of the Ghost Dance
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
The inception of the Ghost Dance religion in 1890 marked a critical moment in Lakota history. Yet, because this movement alarmed government officials, culminating in the infamous massacre at Wounded Knee of 250 Lakota men, women, and children, historical accounts have most often described the Ghost Dance from the perspective of the white Americans who opposed it. In A Whirlwind Passed through Our Country, historian Rani-Henrik Andersson instead gives Lakotas a sounding board, imparting the multiplicity of Lakota voices on the Ghost Dance at the time.
Whereas early accounts treated the Ghost Dance as a military or political movement, A Whirlwind Passed through Our Country stresses its peaceful nature and reveals the breadth of Lakota views on the subject. The more than one hundred accounts compiled here show that the movement caused friction within Lakota society even as it spurred genuine religious belief. These accounts, many of them never before translated from the original Lakota or published, demonstrate that the Ghost Dance’s message resonated with Lakotas across artificial “progressive” and “nonprogressive” lines. Although the movement was often criticized as backward and disconnected from the harsh realities of Native life, Ghost Dance adherents were in fact seeking new ways to survive, albeit not those that contemporary whites envisioned for them. The Ghost Dance, Andersson suggests, might be better understood as an innovative adaptation by the Lakotas to the difficult situation in which they found themselves—and as a way of finding a path to a better life.
By presenting accounts of divergent views among the Lakota people, A Whirlwind Passed through Our Country expands the narrative of the Ghost Dance, encouraging more nuanced interpretations of this significant moment in Lakota and American history.
“A Whirlwind Passed through Our Country is an exceptionally valuable addition to the literature on the Ghost Dance. Rani-Henrik Andersson has assembled by far the most comprehensive collection of primary sources on the Lakota Ghost Dance, including many he has skillfully translated from Lakota. His introduction and commentary provide excellent guidance into the diversity of Lakota voices that speak about this vitally important movement.”—Jeffrey Ostler, author of The Lakotas and the Black Hills: The Struggle for Sacred Ground
“In A Whirlwind Passed through Our Country, Rani-Henrik Andersson has made a major contribution to history and anthropology, recovering lost Lakota voices that henceforth will echo through every scholarly and public conversation about the Ghost Dance revival of 1889–1890.”—Louis S. Warren, author of God’s Red Son: The Ghost Dance Religion and the Making of Modern America
“Assembling a comprehensive array of Lakota voices, A Whirlwind Passed through Our Country undoes familiar understandings of the Ghost Dance as the last gasp of a people or a simplistic split between 'traditional' and 'progressive.' Rani-Henrik Andersson opens readers to a strikingly wide range of Lakota opinions and experiences. A remarkable and important contribution.”—Philip J. Deloria, author of Indians in Unexpected Places
“Rani-Henrik Andersson’s linguistic, cultural, and historical expertise is evident in his fresh translation, careful contextualization, and thorough annotation of dozens of Lakota accounts of the origin, transmission, performance, significance, and future of the Ghost Dance.”—Native American and Indigenous Studies Journal