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Memphis Daily News
Ghost Dancing for the Past
October 20, 2014
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

Ghost Dancing originated in the late 1880’s. It was a ceremonial religious dance practiced by several tribes of Native Americans who believed that the Ghost Dance would bring back their way of life, resurrect their customs and their culture.

The tribes faced losing their freedom, their homes, their beliefs, in fact, their very existence to the civilization of the White Man that was being forced upon them. The Ghost Dancers danced to bring back the past. They believed the salvation of their future was not in a new creation, but in the restoration of the simplicity and happiness of the way things used to be in the past. They believed that the more they danced, the more the Great Father in the Sky would roll back the earth, covering the White Men, and all their works and the earth would be just as it was before the White Man came.

It didn’t happen and the movement died out at Wounded Knee. There are times when I feel great empathy with the Ghost Dancers.

Have you ever been at a point in your life when you feel as if everything were over, that you had nothing left to give, nothing to do? Have you ever felt devastated by the loss of a spouse, a child, a friend, a job, your home or belongings? Have you ever been in that place where the circumstances of the present were so difficult to accept because they changed everything you know, everything you have, everything you believe, and everything you have grown comfortable being?

It is a place like the Ghost Dancers experienced, when your faith is in your past, and your hope lies in resurrecting that past for your future. There is no faith in the present and that lack of faith affects your attitude and reactions now. You might even find it difficult to believe that things will ever work out. There seems to be an alien domination of fear and uncertainty that is changing everything you know.

It is in these times that you could be tempted to become Ghost Dancers. You might not ask for the earth to be rolled back, perhaps just time, back before your present circumstances, so that your life would not change, and everything would be like it was.

If, in the present, you have come to a point where you think that everything is over, then that will be the beginning. Regardless of the temptation to just give up, or to not see beyond your circumstances, don’t make the present the spot in your life where you stop believing.

The present is temporary. Don’t spend it Ghost Dancing. Instead, take the hand that life deals you, whatever it might be, and win with it by using your faith, your determination, and your resilience to create your new beginning. Ashleigh Brilliant, author and cartoonist was right when he said, “Strangely enough, this is the past that someone in the future is longing to go back to.”

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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