The Promise of the Ghost Dance
[James Mooney, an ethnologist with the Bureau of American
Ethnology, was sent to investigate the Ghost Dance movement in 1891.
He obtained a copy of Wovoka's message from a Cheyenne named Black
Short Nose, who had been part of a joint Cheyenne-Arapaho delegation
that visited Wovoka in Nevada in August 1891. Wovoka (also known as
Jack Wilson) delivered his message orally, and it was transcribed by
a member of the group who had attended Carlisle Indian School. Mooney
renders the "Carlisle English" of this transcription in a more
THE MESSIAH LETTER
When you get home you must make a dance to continue five days.
Dance four successive nights, and the last night keep us the dance
until the morning of the fifth day, when all must bathe in the river
and then disperse to their homes. You must all do in the same way.
I, Jack Wilson, love you all, and my heart is full of gladness for
the gifts you have brought me. When you get home I shall give you a
good cloud [rain?] which will make you feel good. I give you a good
spirit and give you all good paint. I want you to come again in three
months, some from each tribe there [the Indian Territory].
There will be a good deal of snow this year and some rain. In the
fall there will be such a rain as I have never given you before.
Grandfather [a universal title of reverence among Indians and here
meaning the messiah] says, when your friends die you must not cry.
You must not hurt anybody or do harm to anyone. You must not fight.
Do right always. It will give you satisfaction in life. This young
man has a good father and mother. [Possibly this refers to Casper
Edson, the young Arapaho who wrote down this message of Wovoka for
Do not tell the white people about this. Jesus is now upon the
earth. He appears like a cloud. The dead are still alive again. I do
not know when they will be here; maybe this fall or in the spring.
When the time comes there will be no more sickness and everyone will
be young again.
Do not refuse to work for the whites and do not make any trouble
with them until you leave them. When the earth shakes [at the coming
of the new world] do not be afraid. It will not hurt you.
I want you to dance every six weeks. Make a feast at the dance and
have food that everybody may eat. Then bathe in the water. That is
all. You will receive good words again from me some time. Do not tell
[TEXT: James Mooney, The Ghost-dance Religion and the
Sioux Outbreak of 1890, 14th Annual Report of the Bureau of American
Ethnology, Part 2 (1896).]