Dances and other public rituals were an essential part of Sioux religious tradition.
Dances and other public rituals were an essential part of Sioux religious tradition.

Sioux religious traditions used rituals as ways to placate the spiritual powers of the world but also to reveal the unknown. These rituals were largely public and involved all or most of the tribe, though many may have simply observed others carrying out the rites. Public ceremonies, such as the Sun Dance, included much more than dancing, but rather called for fasting and self-torture as part of an effort to seek visions.

The Vision Quest

A vision quest is a rite of passage for a young man. Survival alone in the wilderness and reception of a vision are proof that he is ready for the burdens and responsibilities of manhood. When a man returns from this quest, he recounts his vision in public, thus integrating himself and his vision into the community.

The Sun Dance

The Sun Dance is the most important religious ceremony of all for the Sioux tribe. It involves much more than dancing. The community engages in drumming and singing and prepares themselves for the ritual with fasting and self-torture. The latter preparation method includes numerous body piercings, which are torn from the flesh during the ceremony. All this is done in an effort to obtain spiritual visions. They conduct this ritual over a period of several days in the summer.

The Medicine Wheel

The medicine wheel plays an important part in Sioux religion. Its use is reserved to the tribe's medicine man. The wheel's circular shape represents life and death while each spoke of the interior cross represents one of the four cardinal directions. Overall, the wheel makes reference to the unity of the Great Spirit.

The Sweat Lodge

The Sioux word "Inipi" is translated as "sweat lodge" in English. This sweat lodge is an integral part of a purification rite in Sioux religion. Traditionally, this ceremony began at sunrise and included only men, but some modifications have been made among some Sioux in the present. Inside a small, circular, handmade lodge, large rocks are heated. The Sioux pour water over the rocks to create steam, and those participating in the ritual seat themselves around the interior of the lodge while different parts of the ceremony are carried out.