sun dance

sun dance, ceremony typical of the Plains Indians of North America. The ceremony was performed in the summer and lasted from two to eight days. Some of the ceremony was secret. Smoking, fasting, and other rites were part of the ceremony. Penance through self-torture was practiced to achieve communion with the forces of the universe. Among some Native Americans, a bison skull was pulled around the lodge by means of a thong and peg inserted through the skin of the participant's chest. Missionaries and the U.S. and Canadian governments prohibited the ceremony.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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