Hilarious anthropological fact time!
So, the Ghost Dance, right? Pan-Native-American religious movement of the late 19th century, with political overtones rooted in the displacement, extermination, and general bullshit oppression of large numbers of Native American people and tribes in the 19th century as a whole. Successful practice of the religion would induce a great force to sweep all of the evil (which a reasonable historical reading identifies with some inevitability as mostly composed of white people) off of the continent. It was also supposed to bring about the happy reunion of the living and the recently deceased! Hooray! Your uncle who got shot by some white dude last year will come back and slap you on the back! Splendid times for the Plains tribes, but it didn't necessarily catch on in the Southwest. The Navajo, in particular, dropped it like a red-hot poisonous electrified snake. But why?
Plains folks: Do this dance! It will bring your dead relatives back!
Navajo: We really do not want to do this dance.
Plains folks: C'monnn. Think of your dead relatives!
Navajo: Trust us, we are thinking of them. Please stop doing that dance.
Plains folks: No way! We want our dead back! All of them!
Navajo: All of them?
Plains folks: Yeah! A great big ghost train full of all dead people.
Navajo: Fucking shit.
Plains folks: Oh, it's no big deal. We'll just all have a nice sit-down and catch up on times. Maybe play some checkers.
Navajo: Yes, and then they're going to turn into howling ghosts and put curses on you and eat your children and we don't even know what the fuck else. Do your insane dance farther away and please for the love of god don't wake up our dead guys.
It just goes to show you have to know your audience. You can be well-intentioned as anything, but, well, if your offer includes the chance to experience a fate worse than death at the hands of thousands of howling evil ghosts people just may not see it in the proper spirit. As it were.
Postscript: now that I'm thinking about this, does it really have to be dark and late with nobody else awake to help me deal with the hordes of angry Navajo ghosts that were just waiting to hear themselves mentioned before leaping out and eating my soul?
Post-postscript: Wow, this entry is exactly as coherent as I'd expect it to be given the timestamp. What I was trying to say is that unlike the majority of Plains tribes the Navajo consider the dead to be dangerous and evil and to be avoided at all costs, and so the striking appeal of the Ghost Dance was not just uncompelling but actually a huge turnoff for them. I don't know why I find this so funny, but I do. Probably it's because I'm a nerd.Posted by dianna at March 10, 2008 12:14 AM