The 1870 Ghost Dance was a significant but too often disregarded transformative historical movement with particular impact on the Native peoples of northern California. The spiritual energies of this “great wave,” as Peter Nabokov has called it, have passed down to the present day among Native Californians, some of whose contemporary individual and communal lives can be understood only in light of the dance and the complex religious developments inspired by it.
Cora Du Bois’s historical study, The 1870 Ghost Dance, has remained an essential contribution to the ethnographic record of Native Californian cultures for seven decades yet is only now readily available for the first time. Du Bois produced this pioneering work in the field of ethnohistory while still under the tutelage of anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber. Her monograph informs our understanding of Kroeber’s larger, grand and crucial salvage-ethnographic project in California, its approach and style, and also its limitations. The 1870 Ghost Dance adds rich detail to our understanding of anthropology in California before World War II