1st Edition

Cosmology and Moral Community in the Lakota Sun Dance Reconceptualizing J. R. Walker's Account

By Fritz Detwiler Copyright 2022
    150 Pages
    by Routledge

    150 Pages
    by Routledge

    Drawing on Indigenous methodologies, this book uses a close analysis of James R. Walker’s 1917 monograph on the Lakota Sun Dance to explore how the Sun Dance communal ritual complex – the most important Lakota ceremony – creates moral community, providing insights into the cosmology and worldview of Lakota tradition.

    The book uses Walker’s primary source to conduct a reading of the Sun Dance in its nineteenth-century context through the lenses of Lakota metaphysics, cosmology, ontology, and ethics. The author argues that the Sun Dance constitutes a cosmic ethical drama in which persons of all types – human and nonhuman – come together in reciprocal actions and relationships. Drawing on contemporary animist theory and a perspectivist approach that uses Lakota worldview assumptions as the basis for analysis, the book enables a richer understanding of the Sun Dance and its role in the Lakota moral world.

    Offering a nuanced understanding that centers Lakota views of the sacred, this book will be relevant to scholars of religion and animism, and all those interested in Native American cultures and lifeways.


    1. The Lakota

    2. Čhaŋgléška wakȟáŋ: the Lakota world

    3. Candidacy part 1: individual and communal responsibilities

    4. Candidacy part 2: the Journey to the Sun Dance site

    5. The Preliminary Camp

    6. The Ceremonial Camp, days one and two

    7. The Ceremonial Camp, days three and four

    8. Concluding thoughts

    Appendix A: phonetic guide

    Appendix B: glossary


    Fritz Detwiler is Professor of Philosophy, Religion, and Leadership at Adrian College, Adrian, Michigan, USA. His specialty is Native American ontologies. Fritz is a charter member of the Society for the Study of Native American Sacred Traditions and has functioned as its treasurer and meeting coordinator since the society’s inception.