Tavibo, a Native American of the Paiute people, emerged
among them around 1869 as a prophet and visionary. He resided
in Mason Valley, north of Virginia City, Nevada, in mountainous
territory. It was common for the men to go to the
mountains to seek vision and revelations from various spirit entities.
Whites began to move into the area in the 1860s and the
various chiefs and religious leaders among the Paiute were confronted,
as had Native people before them, with the problem
of losing their land to the new settlers.
Accounts of Tavibo vary, but all agree that he received a new
revelation in a set of spiritual visions that offered hope to his
contemporaries that the Earth would rise up and consume the
whites and the land would be returned to its original state before
their arrival. These visions most likely occurred in 1869 or
1870. In possibly the best account, left by a Captain J. M. Lee,
an infantry officer on duty in the area in the 1870s, Tavibo had
gone into the mountains and had an initial vision in which he
was told that the Paiute’s situation would be relieved by an
earthquake. The Earth would open up and consume the white
people. He enlarged upon this prediction in a second vision
that suggested that all the humans in the area would be taken
into the ground by the quake but that after a short while the
Native people would be resurrected.
In a final third revelation, Tavibo said that only those who
believed in the prophecy would be resurrected. Unbelievers
would join the whites in eternal damnation. Each new revelation
brought him some additional followers; however, before
he was able to firmly establish his teachings, he died. His movement
appeared to die with him and little was heard of it for
some two decades. However, in the 1890s, his son Wokova
emerged as a new prophet, teaching a variation of his father’s
message and what became popularly known as the Ghost
Mooney, James. ‘‘The Ghost-Dance Religion and the Sioux
Outbreak of 1890.’’ In the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Bureau
of Ethnology. Compiled by J. W. Powell. Washington Government
Printing Office, 1896.