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Definition of GHOST DANCE
: a group dance of a late 19th century American Indian messianic cult believed to promote the return of the dead and the restoration of traditional ways of life
First Known Use of GHOST DANCE
Nineteenth-century Native American cult. It represented an attempt by Indian peoples in the western U.S. to rehabilitate their traditional cultures. The Ghost Dance arose in 1889, when the Paiute prophet-dreamer Wovoka announced the imminent return of the dead (hence ghost), the ousting of the whites, and the restoration of Indian lands, food supplies, and way of life, all of which would be hastened by dances and songs revealed in Wovoka's spiritual visions. The Ghost Dance spread rapidly. It coincided with the Sioux outbreak of 1890, which culminated in the massacre at Wounded Knee, where the ghost shirts failed to protect the wearers as promised by Wovoka. The cult soon became obsolete.