When you dress. When you hear the bass. When you step out and into the landscape of Black Rock Desert this year, the alkaline rich dry lakebed surrounded by hills packed with abundant veins of gold and silver…what will you stand for? What will you contribute through the collective connection to the world and its people in its hour of need?
Know this: The annual Burning Man Festival is held on the traditional lands of the Northern Paiute Indians (the Northern Paiute call themselves Numa which means “The People”). Every person who steps onto that playa is taking part of a much older practice, established by the traditions of the Paiute, which in these dramatic times is a boon to be remembered. It is commonly known as the Ghost Dance.
Starting in 1889 and widely adopted by 1890, this new spiritual practice was rapidly embraced by North American tribes to bring about the return of the natural way of life. These dances involved thousands of people, young and old, dancing for days, receiving revelations, and installing unity amongst the tribes. It was first received as a vision by the Paiute prophet and medicine man Jack Wilson aka “Wavoka” during the solar eclipse of January 1, 1889.
In that experience The Creator showed Wavoka a beautiful land filled with wild game and instructed him to return home to tell his people that they must love each other, not fight, and live in peace, that the people must work, not steal or lie, and that they must not engage in the old practices of war or the traditional self-mutilation practices connected with mourning the dead. The Creator said that if his people abided by these rules, they would be united with their friends and family in the other world.
Wavoka claimed to have left the presence of The Creator convinced that if every Indian in the West danced the new dance to “hasten the event,” all evil in the world would be swept away, leaving a renewed Earth filled with food, love, and faith. Quickly accepted by his Paiute tribesmen, the new religion was termed “Dance In a Circle.” Because the first European contact with the practice came by way of the Sioux, their expression “Spirit Dance” was adopted as a descriptive title for all such practices. This was subsequently translated as “Ghost Dance.”
If one may have an Intention, an active prayer, for their time as an artist on the playa, may it be to inspire greatness and rally the interactive audience to change. Call and response. Power up! If you’re an MC, a DJ, a performer, a poet, a dancer, a band, a participant, grab the mic, or gather a group around you sometime that week and let Black Rock City know what humanity can stand for: Peace, Love, Unity, Freedom and Liberty for all. Dance for it. Rock for it. Move for it. Live the Ghost Dance and pave the way to our better world. This is the spiritual inheritance of the land upon which you party. Don’t trash it. Embrace it. Work with it. Own it.
If you feel challenged here, don’t look to the group, the lowest common denominator of social cues and peer acceptance for the answer. Be the answer. Lead the answer. Strike the match that creates the conversation which transforms the worlds context. Generate value changes. Destroy one economy by generating a new one with the gift of refreshing thought. Stand wherever you are and declare your heart. Participate.
Above all, remember the ancestors –they have your back. It is commonly held that the indigenous people of this land who have passed have become all that you see in the wild open. The rivers, the stones, the wind, the trees. Use all your senses to receive and perceive them. Smell the air, touch the earth, taste the food, hear their songs, and see their dance intertwined in every natural form all about you –all a language transmitting connection and wisdom. With a bow of the head, acknowledge all those who have come before you and cared for the land. They play with you now.
Dear open minded friends, a people I may call the New Indigenous –anything is possible. So is it not possible that Wavoka’s vision, and what it represents, is accessible to you today to carry it forward into being? If you think it –then it is so. You’ve proven this to yourself a million times over. So I invite you here, as stewards of this land, to take the challenge and restore this planet back to paradise. The Paiute lived this. You’re about to dance on their home turf. Dance the Ghost Dance at Burning Man and know you are an active part of how we make it back to heaven on earth.