Waiting for the Earth to Move: The 1890 Ghost Dance


The Ghost Dance was a religious movement inspired by a Northern Paiute spiritual leader Wovoka. The Ghost Dance spread rapidly, reaching many Northwest Plains groups within two years. Ghost Dances take place for five or six nights in a row with dancers adorned in elaborate painted designs on their faces and bodies. The spiritual dance had no restrictions of age or sex. All danced in a big circle, holding hands or draping their arms over each other’s shoulders, shuffling from side to side in a circle. The dance followed the pace set by the slowest participant, often a young child or elder.

Our exhibit displays Ghost Dance shirts, dresses, drums, shields, pipes, a mink rattle, prayer staff, and bags. The objects are on loan from Billings native Larry Williams. Nowhere else in the world has a Ghost Dance collection of this size on public display.