Kevin McKiernan report on the Sun Dance Ritual, a Lakota (Sioux) religious ceremony. McKiernan details the experience of traveling to and witnessing the event, held at Crow Dog's Paradise. This is the first of two reports completed.
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To get there you had worked himself out of Rosebud Village the tribal headquarters of the Brule Sioux running trail on a line 25 miles above the Nebraska border with a reservation stops through the drawers and cultures and eroded two-lane blacktop past ghost Hawk Park where the road becomes a gravel washboard then West into the hot afternoon sun along the curve in the White River to cross the two striped bridge above you on the right is a steep pinestead of the hill at the top from a wooden tree pollen solid red flag fly from Clearwater a 47 year old Cherokee killed last year at Wounded Knee 90 miles to the west down the hill across. The road is Crow dog's Paradise 160 Acres now in Indian village of / 1,000 1,000 camp in preparation for the sacred Sundance.Trying to wine for registration under a mammoth a large teepee, which straddles the dirt driveway the sign next to it says all vehicles subject to search alcohol drugs weapons cameras and Recorders will be confiscated operate The Swinging barricade gate. In fact it is when is it open?Hundreds of cars and trucks Indian people here from as far away is Vermont from California whole family's here for four days of singing dancing and eating Rich hundreds of yards from the road back to the shallow fast-flowing Little White River behind. They Circle The Log Cabin in tarpaper Shacks in the center dogs generations of medicine men live year round. On the eve of the start of the Sundance last night. The campfire is burned in a pow. Wow drums beat late into the evening cows were butchered the Indian fry bread crumb coffee beans to wake up sunrise in a bedroll into cottonwood trees by the river. It's the first day with sweat Lodges at Saint many of them skins and tarps pulled tight over the bound branches, which form the round skeletons with a low-slung hot water filled with fiery rocks which side in a bonfire pipe smoking and prayers in the hot steamy darkness and then afterwards outside your lungs bursting in the cold morning feeling your breathing pure oxygen through every open and then breakfast. But not for the sun dancers no food and water for four days if you can you fast and you pray this is your own calling. No one forced. You hear this year. They're 3819 female begin dancing in diameter the dancing Begins the women and heavy Fringe leather cement colored skirts, everyone Barefoot. They all wear anklet bracelets and crowns of woven Sage to eagle feathers atop Their Heads Winston Ortiz Van Halen drum sticks during White flags on the East to yellow flags for the sun on the west black for Darkness on the North. What for Indians came from the north When the black flags on the west is an Indian halter a buffalo head herbs medicine and pipe with a dozen solid color Flags the four races of Man black yellow white and red plus a blue flag to represent the sky a green one to symbolize the Earth. My afternoon the temperature is in the high eighties in the dancers are covered with sweat their arms are outstretched toward the sun feathers ring with their hands were held by their grandfathers when they danced here. Around the circumference is a circular arborshade provided by a log canopy filled with pine needles underneath Stevens hot in the shade, but the onlookers have water jugs the dance stops in begins again many familiar faces in the American Indian movement is third-year Clyde. According to your is naked stomach a massive surgical railroad tracks from a gunshot wound on this reservation. Last summer was not here by Mission South Dakota Police in Valentine, Nebraska border Town two nights ago and apparently talietian for beating up of two officers in the mission Golf Club in June. He and some supporters are recuperating now in a Rapid City Hospital the Master of Ceremonies. It's means a fourth and final year. The dancers are called back into a hot Dusty Circle in front of the drum. The drum has stopped the old men say they can't go on until 4. Food in cool water in front of a fasting dancers taunting them. Medicine Man lame deer seeker of Visions walks among the groups divided in the arena in front of the Four Winds directions to salt and pepper hair is tied off in long braids with a red and black eagle feather they begin to dance the drum the bone whistles a chance start from the surrounding shade old man, pretending to be absent minded as he chews and favors a piece of golden fry bread on his criss cross walkthrough The Arena Sundance we started my phone in the spread on the Black Hills South of years ago. It was all 1889 after a man died of the chest piercing on the last day of the ritual started up again briefly in 1928. And then Frank fools Crow the end of canopy by the drum revive it again in 1958 promising the government of the chest incision would be shallower. Master of Ceremonies Matthew King tells the dancers that in the old days they had to dance for four days and four nights for the fun Vision. He taunts them nowadays. You must fast and dance only four days away from the microphone King Charles me that each year since 1958 the chest cuts are deeper and deeper each year. Show me five year old toothless Henrico dog who opened his land for a staging area for guns ammunition and food list during the Wounded Knee fees takes the microphone. You must be humble the great spirit to hear your prayers. He says the outstretched arms of the tired answers reach for the burning Sun. You must be humble to get on the good side of the great spirit. Everyone listens to Croton bruising under the Pharaoh. We are the chosen people. He says we are the chosen people of the Western Hemisphere. We will survive. To English and then from last night to remember Matthew King was also Chief fools crows interpreter the old man king talkin the dancers. He said make a commitment a year before the Dance 4 years in a row some Vision lamp for they pray every morning and every evening. They asked for wisdom wisdom to know themselves to be a whole person. A picture of themselves they ask for strength and guidance. No one told them to do this thing. No one makes them dance. You have to want to do the sacrifice you pray for God's help for your life. We've always been at the bottom. He said but we are going to win. This is our land or country. You have to have faith. You have to believe from the top of your head to the tips of your feet. Then watch the sky watch the sky for signs the eagle to fly there. They approve they carry the prayers to the great spirit tomorrow search Esther cut open a length of donor would have flipped through two slits of skin around the length of fast and Rawhide Tong which which in turn is trying to the factory poplar tree in the center of the Arena. Fasting cancer cannot touch the wound record. You must dance away from the tree pulling the cord tight until this last all day. No one can help him. No one can help him. Even if you found unconscious it is says Matthew King his struggle. He seeks his own Vision alone. To Sundance near Chromebox Paradise on the rosebud Indian Reservation. This is Kevin mckernan.