This paper examines the Lakota and Shoshone-Bannock Sun Dances as practiced from the 1700s through the present day. It attempts to understand how and why Lakota and Shoshone-Bannock peoples have altered their Sun Dance rituals over time. It compares the ritual practice in each tribe and asks how the changes over time and comparative differences reflect Native Americans' responses to a changing world. In this paper, I use a holistic approach, attempting to incorporate as many viewpoints from as many time periods as possible. To do so, I include information from scholarly and historical sources, as well as native memoirs by native authors, historical novels, American Indian autobiographies, news sources, and websites. I argue that a major change in the Sun Dance surfaces in a change in motivation. Lakota and Shoshone-Bannocks have shifted from a focus on blessings and healing, to one on reclamation of identity and political resistance. Through these changes in motivation, the Sun Dance acts as one of many ways in which we can examine the fluidity of Native American religious life and the influences that native cultures and contemporary American society have had upon each other.


Religious Studies




sun dance, shoshone-bannock, lakota, native american religion

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2012 Jessie Felling