The Sun Dance is a ceremony practiced differently by several North American Indian Nations, but many of the ceremonies have features in common, including dancing, singing and drumming, the experience of visions, fasting, and, in some cases, self-torture.
The Sun Dance lasts from four to eight days starting at the sunset of the final day of preparation and ending at sunset. It shows a continuity between life and death - a regeneration.
The Sun Dance consists of dancers attaching themselves to the centre pole with bone or wood skewers. Then, dancing around in a circle to the beat of drums and prayers, they pull against the pole to tear the skewers out. Some dancers also attach a buffalo skull to their back. This traditional form of self torture was considered highly honourable.
In the 1880's, the Canadian government officially discouraged and in some places prohibited the Sun Dance.
- The Return of A Man Called Horse at IMDB.com