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This innovative cultural history examines wide-ranging issues of religion, politics, and identity through an analysis of the American Indian Ghost Dance movement and its significance for two little-studied tribes: the Shoshones and Bannocks. The Ghost Dance has become a metaphor for the death of American Indian culture, but as Gregory Smoak argues, it was not the desperate fantasy of a dying people but a powerful expression of a racialized “Indianness.” While the Ghost Dance did appeal to supernatural forces to restore power to native peoples, on another level it became a vehicle for the expression of meaningful social identities that crossed ethnic, tribal, and historical boundaries. Looking closely at the Ghost Dances of 1870 and 1890, Smoak constructs a far-reaching, new argument about the formation of ethnic and racial identity among American Indians. He examines the origins of Shoshone and Bannock ethnicity, follows these peoples through a period of declining autonomy vis-a-vis the United States government, and finally puts their experience and the Ghost Dances within the larger context of identity formation and emerging nationalism which marked United States history in the nineteenth century.
List of Maps
Introduction: Endings and Beginnings
Part One. Identity and Prophecy in the Newe World
1. Snakes and Diggers: The Origins of Newe Ethnic Identities
2. Shamans, Prophets, and Missionaries: Newe Religion in the Nineteenth Century
Part Two. Identity, Prophecy, and Reservation Life
3. Treaty Making and Consolidation: The Politics of Ethnogenesis
4. Two Trails: Resistance, Accommodation, and the 1870 Ghost Dance
5. Culture Wars, Indianness, and the 1890 Ghost Dance
Conclusion: Prophecy and American Identities
Gregory E. Smoak is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Colorado State University.
“More work like Smoak’s will help anthropologists and the more-focused reader understand some of the myriad functions that American Indian religions serve in the communities of the past and of the present.”—Journal Of Anthropological Research
“Uniformly raises thought-provoking questions. . . . The work fills an important void in the literature about the Ghost Dance”—Gregory R. Campbell Montana: The Mag Of Westrn Hist
" This is a compellingly nuanced and sophisticated study of Indian peoples as negotiators and shapers of the modern world."—Richard White, author of The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815