Sun Dance

I experienced a fairly unusual spring break last year. It all started out when my auntie asked if I would like to get out of the city for a week. I jumped at the opportunity. She told me that where we were going, she goes every year. She told me we were going to the Sun-Dance. I had heard a lot about this tradition before, but I had never witnessed it till then. It was amazing. My auntie was a Sun-Dancer and she prepared all year for the first full moon of the spring, which is when the annual Sun-Dance is always held. When we arrived at the camp, I saw tee-pees, tents and trailers everywhere. I saw children everywhere, playing around, women sitting around gossiping, and old and young men sharing war stories. There were about two hundred people all together. It looked like a great big family gathering. I was nervous because I was going to be there for six days and no one looked familiar. It turned out that everyone was pretty friendly. Before I even had time to unpack or set up camp, someone asked me if I could help work on the arbor. And that’s how it went for those six days. I worked like a slave, I had to cut down trees and gather rocks for the sweat lodges, and stay up all night with the fire. I also had to cut the logs for the fire with an axe, because nobody trusted me with their chain-saw. While I was slaving away and sweating like a beast, I was not angry because it felt like I was working for a higher purpose than money. There was a feeling of magic in the air. I don’t know if it was the Sun-Dance songs or the dancer’s pain. I went over to the arbor and watched them. It seemed like the beat of the drums was flowing into the dancer’s feet, up their bodies through the pieces on their chests, up the ropes to the center pole and straight into heaven like a dish tracking a satellite. Man, it was wild. Me, I was like the energizer bunny. I just kept working, with a good feeling in my heart. When it came time to leave, I did not want to because I had made new friends and learned a lot. It was sad to leave, but I will always remember that time in the sun.

Ray, 1995

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