Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Speech Communication

First Advisor

Gray, Jonathan


AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF Gabor Hardy, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Speech Communication, presented on 8 March, 2012, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale TITLE: A RITUAL IN PERSPECTIVE: AN ETHNOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS OF A LAKOTA SUNDANCE AT HOOSIER NATIONAL FOREST MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Jonathan Gray Using ethnographic methods, interviews, observations, and participation of and in indigenous rituals, I discuss the ways in which Western and American Indian notions of spirit, human beings and their place in the world, and the practice of spirituality differ in action, thought, and word. Since the time of the Renaissance the supremacy of "rational" or "reasonable" modes of thinking has influenced the modern world. Many American Indian writers, shamans, and Sundance chiefs believe that an understanding of their approach to the Divine may never be apprehended without some sort of actual experience. This indigenous perspective differs in substantial ways from hegemonic, Christian and Western linear modes of thinking. I draw on my attendance at numerous Sundance rituals, readings by American Indian spiritual leaders, and ethnographic work done at the Salt Creek Sundance ritual to articulate and streamline major differences and similarities that exist in both approaches. Through participation and dialogue, a distinct indigenous spiritual approach emerges that is difficult to reconcile with traditional Christian and Eurocentric world views. As I hope to demonstrate, the appearance and performance of American Indian ritual serve to not only challenge Western colonial perspectives, but also to empower indigenous approaches to spirit. In order to cultivate a more tolerant approach to the diversity and various modes of spiritual expression, a change in consciousness is needed, not necessarily for the American Indian worldview, but from the current ethnocentric worldview of the US Government which holds this form of government as the highest accomplishment of any nation thus far. This dissertation offers an approach that probes the relationship between an earth based religion and a monotheistic religion. Finally, I present a vision that allows for an understanding and/or appreciation of a spiritual approach which remains alien to Western approaches and conceptualizations of spirit. Key words: rational mind, symbolic meaning, ritual, myths, sacred, ideology, truth, indigenous worlds, cosmology, spirituality, reason, ethnography, Sundance, performance, and Native American.




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