Rain Dance and Sun Dance

Three men dancing around a pole in front of a crowd during an Indian Sun Dance.
Drummers, spectators and a siux Indian with his chest pierced during Sun Dance.
Shoshone Indians performing Sun Dance on a reservation.
The color turquoise symbolized water and was therefore an important color for performers of Rain Dance.

Animals, the weather and the earth itself were essential for the Native Americans’ survival. For this reason, Indian religious practices often centered on honoring these things in the hope that nature would reward the Indians with good living conditions.

Rain Dance

A religious practice that some Indians believed in was the Rain Dance. Carried out to please nature and inspire rain, this dance practice involved stomping one’s feet on the ground and chanting while moving to the rhythm of drums and other instruments. It was also important for Rain Dance ceremonies to dress in feathers, and as a recurring theme during the ceremonies, in many cases, the colors blue and turquoise were emphasized, since they symbolized water.

Sun Dance

Another religious practice that Native Americans carried out was the Sun Dance. The purpose of the Sun Dance was to offer sacrifice, in an act of submission or a plea to mother earth, for the general prosperity of one’s tribe. In line with this aim, Sun Dance was a test of endurance involving fasting, piercing of the skin, and prayer, with participants sometimes getting so exhausted that they passed out.

Among the North American tribes that practiced the Sun Dance were the Sioux, who lived in the northern parts of the Great Plains. Today though, due to the Sioux having become more secular or westernized, they practice this dance much less. However, some Native Americans, including Sioux Indians, still perform Sun Dance and even Rain Dance ceremonies today to not lose touch with their peoples’ cultural roots.