The Road to Sundance

Michael McGee

SundanceThe Wi Wanyank Wacipi, or Sundance, is a traditional renewal ceremony of the Lakota people held in late summer. Historically the different Lakota bands were spread out over the plains and the Sundance was the time for them to come together as one people to honor the ancestors and pray for the continuance of the people.

The community would gather its resources and help prepare for this ceremony and a Dancer would be chosen to carry the prayers of the people and their community. This chosen Dancer will prepare for an entire year for this ceremony. Then during the ceremony the Dancer goes through four days of purification and prays in the sacred arbor for the four days of Dance. During this time the whole community would give support to the ceremony and their Dancer by cooking, tending the fire, singing, or simply by being present under the arbors. The Sundance is not only a renewal ceremony of prayer for health, help and healing of the people, but also a gathering of the communities.

In today’s world, our communities aren’t always separated by the great distance, but by work, sports and the many other things that keep us busy. Often times we do not come together as one people and instead focus on the differences that separate us. The Sundance gives us a time to lay those differences aside and come together as a people with ‘One Heart and One Mind’. No matter what community you are from or whether you frequently attend ceremonies, are new to this road or just want to attend and support, the Sundance is open to you.

There are many different ways to support the Sundance and the Dancers; all are highly valued and necessary. Contributions of time, food and monetary support are always critical. During purification, wood for the fire must be hauled, the arbors covered, prayer ties must be prepared, cedar stripped, food prepared, camp set, and many other things. During the Dance itself, the people must be fed, camp must be maintained, the Drum and Singers supported. Simply standing beneath the arbors also gives the Dancers strength to continue fasting and praying for the four days.

During the Dance the people give thanks to the seven generations that have come before and to the seven generations that will come after us. We recognize that every step we have ever taken has led us to this place and that every action we make directly affects those who come after us.

By coming together we strengthen the bonds between us as individuals and as communities. By bringing our families to ceremony we show our support and teach our children the value of community and the strength in ceremony. By coming to the Sundance we allow for these traditions to be passed onto the next generation. See you there!