About 1250 people from throughout the United States and from some foreign nations attended a spiritual event called a “Ghost Dance” on the Jack Salmond family ranch west of Choteau Aug. 5-8.
Traffic was intermittently heavy on the Bellview Road early last week as the participants in the program streamed into the Deep Creek-area property, where, according to witnesses, they set up a tent camp and took part in a peaceful program put on by representatives of the Wolf Lodge Cultural Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Spokane, Wash.
Wolf Lodge Cultural Foundation promoted the event on the Internet, saying on the registration form, “We will sleep in tents, and everyone is expected to bring food that we will all share. We will work together and dance together. We will cross the borders of separation, for in the end, it is the people of this world who will inherit it.” The form also stated that no drugs or alcohol of any kind would be permitted at the Ghost Dance.
Rumors of what the group was doing zipped around town all weekend, but Sheriff George Anderson said most of the speculations were not based in reality. “We had absolutely zero problems at all,” he said, commenting that he and several deputies patrolled the area throughout the event. There were two injuries at the camp over the weekend, he said, one involved a dog bite and the other a head injury due to a fall. Both those injured were treated initially at Teton Medical Center in Choteau. Anderson said only one person in the enclave, the chief of security was armed, and that was as a precaution due to the concerns about mountain lions. About half the participants had departed by Monday morning and the rest were due to leave on Tuesday, Anderson said. Anderson also added that his department had been warned that the group had received threats, and officers were detailed to do the additional patrolling as a precaution, but none of the threats materialized. He also said that he advised other area landowners of the planned gathering. Jack Salmond, contacted on Monday, deferred questions on the gathering to his daughter, Mary Ranf of Choteau, who handled local arrangements. Ranf was at the camp, about 30 miles southwest of Choteau on Monday and was unreachable by telephone.
According to the Wolf Lodge Internet site, the organization was founded to support Native American Culture, Spiritual Heritage, arts and the environment. According to the Internet site, the Ghost Dance at Deep Creek was the first of four global Ghost Dances, and was called by Wolf Lodge spokesman Robert Ghost Wolf.
In a special message posted on the site to “All People of All Nations Around the Globe,” Ghost Wolf says he is Metis who has studied Native American spirituality of various tribes and has studied the beliefs and traditions of his own grandparents and ancestors.
Ghost Dance tradition dates back to the late 1880s, when it was first performed by a medicine man of the Paiute tribe of Nevada, according to author Lori Soard. The theme of the Ghost Dance was to train people to stop fighting and live together in peace. The movement grew and spread to other tribes. The Ghost Dance also figured in the death of Sitting Bull and in the massacre at Wounded Knee, according to history.
Ghost Wolf, however, said in his special message that the ceremony at Deep Creek was not traditional. “This ceremony that I do is a new tradition, being done in a new time. It is not being done as it was done 109 years ago. These are new times, with new circumstances, and life is very different.”
The poster advertising the gathering promoted it as a celebration of one people and one vision to create a new dream for humanity. The gathering emphasized strength through unity rather than separation.
Ghost Wolf did not refer to the Deep Creek location by name, but called it “A place of wonderment, where tribes traveled from North to South, gathered to trade and lived.” Ghost Wolf’s special message also stated that there was no donation required to attend the event.
Melody Martinsen, Acantha Editor