In 1895, the Canadian government banned the Sundance. Intent on destroying the first nation’s way of life and spiritual practices, the colonizers banned various ceremonies and certain practices (like piercing) along withholding sacred objects required for those ceremonies. While this was legally reversed in 1951, it took many years before all First Nation Communities were aware of this change, many more for the fear of retribution and arrest to lift, and even more to feel empowered to engage again in activities such as piercing. Overall, as Keith Chiefmoon describes, the damage to this important ceremony, based on oral traditions, has had long lasting repercussions to their sense of self, community, and mental health that stretch into our present day.
In this podcast, Keith Chiefmoon of the Kainai Nation and Blackfoot Confederacy, generously describes how several decades ago, an elder told him – and sternly so – that the spirits had identified that he was to bring back the traditional Sundance. During several days of praying and fasting on Chief Mountain those spirits outlined this Sundance: the location, the arbor, dancing, drumming, singing, praying, dry fasting (no food or water for 4 days), and piercing (a very sacred offering) – “The old way,” Keith says. And the Spirits were clear: he was to accept any person who wanted to Sundance regardless of their colour: First Nation, black, white, or Asian. This Sundance is currently the only one which does so.
Photo of Keith Chiefmoon by Colin Bolin