The Native American 'the rain dance' is intended to invoke rain and so ensure a good harvest.
Some tribes – among them the Zuni – perform the rain dance both to induce precipitation and to cleanse evil spirits from the earth. They believe that the rain they summon contains the spirits of past tribal chiefs, who battle evil spirits in the transitional plane between our reality and the spirit world. The dance also calls for a volunteer to take part in unusual and extreme acts of worship, such as the whipping described in this scene. Feathers and materials of a blue shade (usually turquoise) are worn during the ceremony to symbolise wind and rain.
Click here to find out more about Pueblo dances and ceremonial dress.