For more than twenty-five years, Elder Pahan Pte San Win (Lakota, Cree & Metis) has been offering counseling support to residential school survivors, incarcerated men and youth, and women who have experienced abuse.
In 2016, she had a vision:
We will dance on sacred land for four days for four years: 2017-2020. We will reach out across the nation to find those who were meant to participate in this great Ceremony. We need women to dance, men to dance one warrior round, supporters of many kinds, and the families of missing and murdered women to feel welcome and join us.
There is much work to do in preparation. Together, following sacred instructions and the immense power of love, our Sundance will bring goodness to all.
In 2017, this vision came into being as the Sundance for Women ceremony. Gathering on sacred land near Winnipeg, Canada, women danced for four days, coming together to honor and offer love to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and their families.
According to a recent UN report, Indigenous women in Canada are five times more likely to die under violent circumstances than non-Indigenous women. Missing and murdered Indigenous women is now widely considered a Canadian human rights crisis. These deaths and disappearances have too often been ignored and disregarded by authorities and Indigenous women and girls disrespected and dishonoured, along with their families and communities.
“It would be so easy for these girls and women, and their families, to feel they weren’t loved,” says Pahan. “But there is also us, dancers who are offering love to the girls, women, and their families.”
The Sundance for Women is a way for people and communities to come together to foster, nurture and bring forth the love so needed in the world. The ceremony takes place on private land, the dancers fast from food and water, dance from early morning to night, and sleep in tipis on the land.
But even people who aren’t dancers can be involved in a variety of ways: praying for the Sundance and the dancers, volunteering time or skills (ie. during the event: chopping wood and keeping the fires going), hosting a fundraiser, following the Sundance for Women journey by subscribing to the monthly newsletter, purchasing Sundance for Women T-shirts and hoodies, or offering artistic skills to make banners for the ceremony.
Banners are carried in a march to the Sundance grounds each year and hung along the dancers’ rest area fence, where they act as expressions of support and love that can inspire the dancers and families.
“We do it as a Sundance family,” says Pahan. “We create a collective, working together to foster, nurture and experience this act of love. It brings healing medicine to the community and the earth.”
One member of the Sundance family and collective is Pahan’s husband, Wanbdi Wakita, himself a survivor of residential schools. A Wicasa Wakan (Holy Man), Wanbdi has spent a lifetime making prayers for people. Wanbdi has participated in other Sundance ceremonies for 48 years, often in the role of Sundance Chief.
Wanbdi and Pahan are on the board of directors of Wanbdiska Oyate (White Eagle Society in the Dakota language), which was created to support the legal and financial needs of the Sundance of Women. Wanbdiska Oyate received a Sacred Fire Foundation grant for their first Sundance for Women.
It is a great honor to welcome Pahan and Wanbdi as the invited Elders at the next Voices of Wisdom event, hosted by the Sacred Fire community of Asheville, N.C. on November 17-18, 2018. For more information about that event, click here.
The next Sundance for Women ceremony will take place in August 2019 on private land one-hour from Winnipeg, in the province of Manitoba, Canada.
To learn more, or to find out how you might participate, please send an email to [email protected].
“To Sundance is an honor. To be a Sundancer is a gift. All year she prepares herself through ceremony, exercise and good nutrition. She purges herself of anger, sadness and all that is harmful to her and others. This way, when she takes her first step into the Sundance arbor, she is ready; confident in the knowledge that she is coming in the best way she knows how. She is dancing for the people and they are depending on her. The sacredness of the ceremony welcomes her in and lifts her up. The Vision is realized and it is good.” ~ Pahan Pte San Win