Thursday, September 2, 2010

Q&A: Sundance

Leonard Peltier is a Sun Dancer, and that is one of the most honored things to be in our religion. - Chief Archie Fire Lame Deer

What is Sundance?

During a Sundance, dancers who have made vows of commitment with the Creator undergo extreme physical sacrifice. Dancers usually do without food or water for a period of four days while they pray before the Creator.

A commitment of this type is not entered into without careful thought.

Those who dance do so for various reasons; all of them being important.

Oftentimes one may pray to the Creator for a specific reason, perhaps asking for special help. Maybe a relative is sick, or someone needs help with a major decision. Whatever the reason, people often make vows with the Creator that if he has pity on them and hears their prayers, they will pray for the people and sacrifice themselves in this way upon the Sundance altar to show their gratitude in return for his kindness.

Many prayers are offered up during the Sundance. Again, many of these are in thanksgiving for help received from the Creator. Prayers are given that the elderly will be cared for. That they might have food, clothing and shelter, and that they will not be forgotten in their age. Prayers are also said for the children, as they are the life blood of the people. That they will not forget their traditional and sacred ways. That they might gain knowledge and wisdom to help their people survive in an ever changing world.

Additionally, dancers pray for all people on the earth, that whatever burdens they carry or struggles they are experiencing might be somewhat lessened and eased. This is just a taste of the Sundance. It is a very powerful and sacred ceremony that has withstood severe oppression many times since it was given to the People. Yet it has survived and continues on today on many reservations and in our communities.

Sundance makes me strong. Sundance takes place inside of me, not outside of me. I pierce the flesh of my being. I offer my flesh to the Great Spirit, the Great Mystery, Wakan Tanka. To give your flesh to Spirit is to give your life. And what you have given you can no longer lose. Sundance is our religion, our strength. We take great pride in that strength, which enables us to resist pain, torture, any trial rather than betray the People. That's why in the past, when the enemy tortured us with knives, bullwhips, even fire, we were able to withstand the pain. That strength still exists among us... And for the rest of your life, once you have made that sacrifice of your flesh to the Great Mystery, you will never forget that greater reality of which we are each an intimate and essential part and which holds each of us in an embrace as loving as a mother's arms. Every time a pin pricks your finger from then on, that little pain will be but a tiny reminder of that larger pain and of the still greater reality that exists within each of us, an infinite realm beyond reach of all pain. There even the most pitiable prisoner can find solace. So Sundance made even prison life sustainable for me. I am undestroyed. My life is my Sundance. - Leonard Peltier

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