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Just-in-time: organizing the Lakota Sun Dance

Daniel Paul Modaff (Department of Communication Studies, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA)

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN: 2046-6749

Article publication date: 14 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the organizing practices of a Lakota Sun Dance, and to contribute to the literature on rituals and ceremonies in organizational culture.


The researcher acted as participant-as-observer during this extended ceremony. Fieldnotes capturing observations and informal interviews with Lakota elders were the source of data as recording devices were not permitted on the Sun Dance grounds. Observations were conducted for approximately 45 hours over the course of five days.


The Lakota Sun Dance can be understood through organizational theory, particularly through a unique integration of the concepts of agency, loosely coupled systems, and just-in-time organizing. The current research highlights the role of agency in organizational ceremonies.


This research offers a thick description of the organizing practices of an extended Lakota ceremony. The integration of traditional Lakota organizing principles with modern organizational theory is absent from the literature, and offers a unique perspective on organizing from a non-Western perspective.



The author would like to thank Roy Spotted War Bonnet and Roy Stone for providing access to the Sun Dance ceremony, and Dr Manuela Nocker, Dr Jennifer Butler Modaff, and the anonymous reviewers for comments on early drafts of this manuscript.


Modaff, D.P. (2016), "Just-in-time: organizing the Lakota Sun Dance", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 13-27.



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