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The White Buffalo Calf Woman Prophesy
The Lakota religious system and White Buffalo prophesies are based on a messiah who appeared to them about 2,000 years ago called the White Buffalo Woman, or PtesanWi, as she is called in the Lakota language. (The “Calf” part of her name was added later by fairly recent storytellers.)
The oral tradition says she first appeared to them in the form of a wakan (holy) woman who “floated” above the ground. She stayed among them for a period of time and taught them how to use the buffalo to sustain them, and gave them instruction in seven sacred rites they were to incorporate into their daily lives and preserve and pass down to future generations, similar to the Christian belief in the 10 commandments presented to Moses by the Christian God.
When White Buffalo Calf Woman left the Lakota people, the people saw her walking off in the same direction from which she had come, outlined against the setting sun. As she went, she stopped and rolled over four times. The first time, she turned into a black buffalo; the second into a brown one; the third into a red one; and finally, the fourth time she rolled over, she turned into a white female buffalo calf before disappearing.
Just as the Christians believe Jesus spent 32 years among us, then returned to Heaven with a promise to return in the future for his faithfull followers, the White Buffalo Calf Woman also promised to return. Instead of transporting her faithful to Heaven in a rapture, she promised to restore the Earth to harmony if we had made the necessary preparations.
She said she would send a sign her return was near in the form of four unusual buffalo, which would be born white, then during their lifetime, they would cycle through the four colors of the medicine wheel which, among other things, represent the races of the world: red, yellow, black, and white. Some people say the prophesy said they would do this in reverse order from the way she took her leave from the Earth as she traced her way back to our spiritual realm.
White Buffalo Calf Woman warned that several other white buffalo would be born around this time, who would not live to complete the full color change cycle, before the true sacred buffalo were all born. She said when all four sacred white buffalo had returned, the people would be at a crossroads and if they took the right path, there would be a renewal of the Earth. If they chose the wrong path, the Earth would be destroyed, and there would be no hope of restoring harmony beyond that point.
If these sacred white buffalo signs were recognized and heeded, a period of peace and harmony in the world would be restored before her return, when the Mother Earth would heal herself and men would live in harmony with each other, nature, and the natural world, but only if the right choices were chosen. If the wrong choices were made in these days, and man chose to ignore these signs, the Earth would be destroyed.
Albino or White Buffalo Just a Coincidence?
Albino and white non-albino buffalo do occur naturally, although they are extremely rare for many reasons. The first hurdle is genetics and a shrinking gene pool. In the early 1800’s, when there were sixty to eighty million buffalo roaming the plains, (depending on which estimate you refer to), the odds have been estimated at one in ten million for having a white or albino calf born. By comparison, the rate of albinos in humans is one in 15,000.
True albinos have pink eyes and a near total lack of coloring in their skin and hair. This is caused by a malformed melanin gene, and is essentially a birth defect. Enzymes in melanin produce pigment in red and brown shades that combine to give skin, hair, and eyes a specific color. These enzymes malfunction in the albino and are present in greatly reduced numbers, lack one pigment shade or the other instead of mixing as they do in most people, or are not even present in extreme cases of albinism.
The lack of pigment in the eyes of albinos leaves a large portion of albinos nearly or totally blind, and the skin is susceptible to faster dehydration and damage from the sun. Albinism also seems to weaken hearing and the immune system, so the majority of those that were born with this condition probably didn’t make it through their first year, and then, if one did make it beyond these obstacles, they spent their lives as white predator-beacons in a vast herd of brown animals and, by the mid-1800’s, the vast herds were disappearing. At the same time the numbers of buffalo decreased, so did the available gene pool and the mutations within it.
In order to produce a non-albino white calf, both parents must carry the gene for that trait, although they may not exhibit it themselves. We call this a recessive gene. It’s not a malformed gene, it’s just programmed with a different combination of the brown and red enzymes than most. The same kind of recessive gene produces red hair in humans, which is only found in 10% of the world population. Both parents must carry the same recessive gene before they will have offspring with white or red hair.
The slaughter of the buffalo
By 1830 there were an estimated forty million bison left in North America, about half to two-thirds of the population that existed when the West was first explored by Europeans. By 1865 that number was down to fifteen million when the great buffalo slaughters santioned by the US Government began, and at the end of the next 30 years, only 1,100 remained.
Taking refuge in Yellowstone’s remote Pelican Valley, this remnant herd ensured the survival of the species in the wild, but poachers soon took their toll on even this remaining small herd. In 1894, when Congress passed the National Park Protective Act giving protection to buffalo and other North American Wildlife inside National Parks, only 23 genetically pure wild buffalo survived. The recessive gene for the white coat was assumed to have been lost in the slaughter of the last century.
The north american bison, commonly called buffalo, had survived for 100 million years before being driven to the brink of extinction in 70 short years.
Many people say the buffalo mentioned in the White Buffalo Woman Prophesy was not an ordinary albino buffalo, which occurs more frequently in nature than a true white buffalo. According to the legend, the sacred buffalos would be born with a white coat, then must transition through the colors of the sacred medicine wheel — from white to red (brown), to black, to yellow (blonde), and back to white again — in order to fulfull the prophesy. It was by this transition that the people would be able to recognize the true signs.
In 1833, a white bison was killed by the Cheyenne. The skin of this bison is hanging on the wall of Bent’s Old Fort in Colorado. The Cheyenne killed this white bison during the Leonid Meteor Shower (The Night the Stars Fell) and scribed a peace and trade treaty on its skin. This event was documented by historian Josiah Gregg and other travelers on the Santa Fe Trail.
At least nineteen white bison have been born over the last 75 years.
The first recorded white buffalo in the last century was born in May of 1933, on the National Bison Range in western Montana on the Flathead Reservation. A white bull calf with ice-blue eyes, brown horns, and a curious brown top-notch was born in captivity. They called him “Big Medicine” and he was soon to become quite a tourist attraction. Not being a full albino, he didn’t have the vision problems that traditionally plagued his kind. He eventually became one of the major herd bulls.
Four years later he was bred to his own mother in a successful attempt to produce another white calf. “Little Medicine” was born in May of 1937. He was a full albino with pink eyes and creamy white hooves, and he was completely blind. When he was six months old, he was shipped to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he remained until his death in 1949.
Big Medicine outlived his son by a decade. Thousands of tourists flocked every summer to see the big bull until his death in August, 1959 at age 26. A taxidermist named Bob Scriver spent two years mounting the bull’s remains. They are now on display at the Montana State Historical Museum in Helena, Montana.
From 1939-58, during Big Medicine’s lifetime, no less than six white calves were born to the Big Delta herd in Alaska. None of these calves lived more than a few weeks. The Big Delta herd apparently was a stronghold for the recessive gene during this time and for the next fifteen years. In 1961, three more white calves were born in the Big Delta herd, but all of them disappeared within three months. In 1963 two more were born…one only lasted three months, and the other didn’t make it through the winter. The twelfth white buffalo from this herd was seen in 1973. Government officials tried to capture it to send it to a zoo in Anchorage, but were unsuccessful. It too, didn’t make it through the year. This was the last white bison seen in the Alaska herd.
On August 20, 1994, long after the spring calving season was over, Dave Heider went out at 6:00 a.m. to check on a buffalo that seemed to be ready to give birth on his Janesville, Wisconsin farm. He was surprised to find a white calf with brown eyes, nose and tail-tip. Dave reportedly had “never even heard of a white buffalo” and so he called a journalist friend to report it as a cute little novelty story.
The Associated Press eventually picked up the story and the Native American community exploded. The day after the Associated Press ran the story, members of the Oneida tribe arrived at the Heider farm to bring gifts and prayers for the white calf. Soon thousands of people, Native American and otherwise, descended on the Heiders farm to visit the calf, which was named “Miracle.” People left gifts for the buffalo that was considered to be a “symbol of rebirth” for the Native American community. There was so much traffic to the farm to see this white buffalo, that tourism increased 22% in the county where the Heider farm is located.
Miracle changed color four times as it was said that she would through many Native American visions, representing the four colors of the “people of the world,” and each time there seemed to be a “shift” in the affairs of the world around us. When the calf’s winter coat grew in, the calf turned deep brown. In early 1995, she turned black, then in June 1995 her coat turned a deep red and in July 1997, her coat turned a pale yellow. She was beginning to turn white again just before her death on September 19, 2004. She died of natural causes at age 10.
A second female white buffalo calf named ‘Lady Miracle’ was born on the Heider farm in 1996 but died after four days. A third white buffalo calf from a completely unrelated genetic line was born on the Heider farm during a lightning storm on August 25, 2006, this one a male. It was named Miracle’s Second Chance. It was later killed by lightning during another storm on November 26, 2006.
On May 9, 1996, a silverywhite buffalo calf named Medicine Wheel was born at the ranch of Joe Merrival on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota. Another white calf, Rainbow, had been born in the same herd on 27 April. It died 25 hours later of scours, a diarrheatype condition. Medicine Wheel later got loose and went on a rampage in a residential area and was shot by tribal police on March 19, 2000 when it was 4 years old. At that time, Medicine Wheel was in the black phase.
Spirit Mountain Ranch in Flagstaff, Arizona has successfully bred two generations of white buffalo starting from a single white female, all with brown fathers. Their herd included seven white buffalo as of May 2005:
- Miracle Moon (female, born April 30, 1997)
- Rainbow Spirit (female, born June 8, 2000, calf of Miracle Moon)
- Mandela Peace Pilgrim (female, born July 18, 2001, calf of Miracle Moon)
- Arizona Spirit (male, born July 1, 2002, calf of Miracle Moon)
- Sunrise Spirit (female, born May 22, 2004, calf of Mandela Peace Pilgrim)
- Spirit Thunder (male, born May 27, 2004, calf of Rainbow Spirit)
- Chief Hiawatha (male, born May 16, 2005, calf of Miracle Moon)
Ma-hi-ya-sqa (“White Cloud”) is an albino White Buffalo born July 10, 1996. She has resided since 1997 at the National Buffalo Museum and Cultural Center in Jamestown, North Dakota. Ma-hi-ya-sqa has been certified by the National Bison Association as an albino white bison; she is deaf and has impaired vision. She has had two calves, both brown.
Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo in Tupelo, MS owns a white buffalo bull named Tukota.
A male white buffalo named Spirit of Peace was born on April 17, 2005, on the Blatz Bison Ranch in Fort St. John, British Columbia. Unfortunately, Spirit of Peace died on June 1 of the same year, probably as a result of his premature birth.
Buffalo Crossing in Shelbyville, KY owns a female white buffalo named Medicine Heart, born June 3, 2005. She is a granddaughter of the ranch’s former big star, award-winning bull Chief Joseph, a hefty 3,000-pound sire that had cost the Allens $101,000. He was struck by lightning on Sept. 11, 2001, (the same day as 9-11 at the Twin Towers in New York)and died two weeks later.
A male named Blizzard was born in March 2006 on the farm of an anonymous rancher, who arranged to have the calf transported to Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba in recognition of his spiritual significance to aboriginal people.
The Sacred Pipe given to the Lakota by White Buffalo Calf Woman is held by Arvol Looking Horse, a Lakota medicine man from Green Grass, S.D., who is the 19th generation Keeper of the Sacred Pipe. In a statement made by Looking Horse in 1998 at Pipestone, Minn., he said, “The first white buffalo calf was born in 1994 and all four have now been born. The people are faced with disaster or harmony. If the people unite in spirituality, there will be peace and harmony and the Indigenous nations will regain their position in the world.”
At the 2000 World Unity conference at Sisseton, S.D., Looking Horse said the Comet Hale-Bopp was one of the signs that the prophecy is upon us. He added there would be 12 young people, six females and six males, from the seventh generation who will lead the people back to strength and renewal. I understand that Looking Horse includes White Cloud as one of the four white buffalo calves.
One who disagrees is a Sisseton/Wahpeton traditional person who told me there are only two of the four sacred white buffalo calves born so far. He said that these two buffaloes have turned white, yellow, red and black or shades of those colors. He claimed when the White Buffalo Calf Woman left the people, she turned these four colors. The true white buffalo calves will also turn those colors, he said. He doesn’t believe they will turn white a second time.
LINKS ON THIS SITE:
Kiowa-Apache White Buffalo Woman Legend
Legends, like most history, are often corrupted and embellished by the conquerors. Those who “remember” are very confused by what is being circulated today about the story and teachings of White Buffalo Woman. This account is being presented to set the record straight.
Twelve years later, nearly to the day, another extraordinary miracle has occurred on the Heider family farm. During or shortly after a severe lightning storm, another white buffalo calf, this time a male, was born in the early morning hours to the Heider herd. Like Miracle, he is not an albino.
Excerpted from The Quest. Stalking Wolf was a prophet — a true prophet — the kind that 100% of his prophecies come true. In his book THE QUEST, Tom stated that “More than any person — prophet, religious leader, or psychic — I have ever met, Grandfather’s prophecies, on both a major and a minor scale, came true exactly at the time, and exactly as prophesied.
As told by Leonard Crow Dog.
As told by a traditional Algonquin elder.
Excerpted from a talk given at the 1986 Continental Indigenous Council in Fairbanks, Alaska.
A Cree Prophesy.
A Hopi prophesy.
Seven prophets came to the Anishinabe. They came at a time when the people were living a full and peaceful life on the North Eastern coast of North America. These prophets left the people with seven predictions of what the future would bring. Each of the prophecies was called a fire and each fire referred to a particular era of time that would come in the future. Thus, the teachings of the seven prophets are now called the “Seven Fires.”
The legend is divided into four parts : The first concerned the origin of the world; the second, its transformation; the third, its present existence; and last, the tales which foretold the end of the present world.
Like all Animal Dances, the Buffalo Dance is a celebration of thanksgiving. The hunter takes on the spirit of the buffalo he has hunted during the year. He thanks the spirit of that animal, and he asks for good luck for next year’s hunting.
RELATED OFF-SITE LINKS:
Official website of Miracle, the white buffalo, who was born on the Heider farm in Janesville, Wisconsin on August 20, 1994. The site includes pictures of her color changes, information on visiting her grave, and news stories published about her during her lifetime.
Grass roots organization dedicated to preventing the indiscriminate slaughter of bison in the Yellowstone region.
A Native American group dedicated to restoring bison to tribal lands.
Interesting page with lots of facts about buffalo and what they mean to Native Americans. Be sure to click the link for Part 2. Also links to several buffalo legends.
Home to Miracle Moon and six other white buffalo. This page contains the White Buffalo Calf Woman legend at the to p of the page and more information on their white buffalo at the bottom of the page.