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For many tribes of Plains Indians whose bison-hunting culture flourished during the 18th and 19th centuries, the sun
dance was the major communal religious ceremony . . . the rite celebrates renewal - the spiritual rebirth of
participants and their relatives as well as the regeneration of the living earth with all its components . . . The ritual,
involving sacrifice and supplication to insure harmony between all living beings, continues to be practiced by many
contemporary native Americans.
-Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence
As the most important ritual of the nomadic Plains Indians, the Sun Dance in itself presents many ideas, beliefs, and
values of these cultures. Through its rich symbolism and complicated rituals we are able to catch a glimpse into
these peoples' view of the world.
A Sun Dance is held when a man feels the need to be a dancer to fulfill certain wishes, primarily "for his deliverance
from his troubles, for supernatural aid, and for beneficent blessings upon all of his people." (Welker) It is this dancer
who usually bears the expenses of the Sun Dance (Atwood), including a feast for all that comes to the celebration.
(Welker) Motivations behind the Sun Dance varies slightly between tribes. The Crow held the ceremony to seek aid
for revenge for family members killed in warfare.
The entire event surrounding the Sun Dance generally lasts from four to seven days, though longer events exist. On
the first day a tree is se...