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 White Buffalo Calf Woman Brings The First Pipe 

As told by: Joseph Chasing Horse 

We Lakota people have a prophecy about the white buffalo calf. How that prophecy originated was that we have a sacred bundle, a sacred peace pipe, that was brought to us about 2,000 years ago by what we know as the White Buffalo Calf Woman. 

The story goes that she appeared to two warriors at that time. These two warriors were out hunting buffalo, hunting for food in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota, and they saw a big body coming toward them. And they saw that it was a white buffalo calf. As it came closer to them, it turned into a beautiful young Indian girl. 

That time one of the warriors thought bad in his mind, and so the young girl told him to step forward. And when he did step forward, a black cloud came over his body, and when the black cloud disappeared, the warrior who had bad thoughts was left with no flesh or blood on his bones. The other warrior kneeled and began to pray. 

And when he prayed, the white buffalo calf who was now an Indian girl told him to go back to his people and warn them that in four days she was going to bring a sacred bundle. 

So the warrior did as he was told. He went back to his people and he gathered all the elders and all the leaders and all the people in a circle and told them what she had instructed him to do. And sure enough, just as she said she would, on the fourth day she came. 

They say a cloud came down from the sky, and off of the cloud stepped the white buffalo calf. As it rolled onto the earth, the calf stood up and became this beautiful young woman who was carrying the sacred bundle in her hand. 

As she entered into the circle of the nation, she sang a sacred song and took the sacred bundle to the people who were there to take of her. She spent four days among our people and taught them about the sacred bundle, the meaning of it. 

She taught them seven sacred ceremonies. 

One of them was the sweat lodge, or the purification ceremony. One of them was the naming ceremony, child naming. The third was the healing ceremony. The fourth one was the making of relatives or the adoption ceremony. The fifth one was the marriage ceremony. The sixth was the vision quest. And the seventh was the sundance ceremony, the people's ceremony for all of the nation. 

She brought us these seven sacred ceremonies and taught our people the songs and the traditional ways. She instructed our people that as long as we performed these ceremonies we would always remain caretakers and guardians of sacred land. 

When she was done teaching all our people, she left the way she came. She went out of the circle, and as she was leaving she turned and told our people that she would return one day for the sacred bundle. And she left the sacred bundle, which we still have to this very day. 

The sacred bundle is known as the White Buffalo Calf Pipe because it was brought by the White Buffalo Calf Woman. It is kept in a sacred place (Green Grass) on the Cheyenne River Indian reservation in South Dakota. It's kept by a man who is known as the keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, Arvol Looking Horse. 

When White Buffalo Calf Woman promised to return again, she made some prophecies at that time. 

One of those prophesies was that the birth of a white buffalo calf would be a sign that it would be near the time when she would return again to purify the world. What she meant by that was that she would bring back harmony again and balance, spiritually. 
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The White Buffalo 

To tell the truth, the first time I looked out there, I saw a million dollars," says Janesville farmer Dave Heider as he watches Miracle, the white buffalo calf, chew contentedly on a mouthful of silage. 

"But once I saw how much this calf means to so many people, I couldn't see charging money for people to come and look at her. I mean, how can you put a price on something that's sacred and holy?" 

The Heiders knew from contacts in the bison industry that their calf was unusual; in fact, the Wisconsin Farmer and The Beloit Daily News both did stories about its birth. But it was only after the story got wider distribution that they learned Miracle was held sacred by Plains Indians, including the Lakota and the Cheyenne. 

News of the calf spread quickly through the Native American community because its birth fulfilled a 2,000-year-old prophecy of northern Plains Indians. Joseph Chasing Horse, traditional leader of the Lakota nation, said that 2,000 years ago a young woman who first appeared in the shape of a white buffalo gave the Lakotas' ancestors a sacred pipe and sacred ceremonies and made them guardians of the Black Hills. Before leaving, she also promised that one day she would return to purify the world, bringing back spiritual balance and harmony; the birth of a white buffalo calf would be a sign that her return was at hand. 

Despite her enormous spiritual and cultural significance, Miracle isn't scientifically important. UW-Madison geneticist Dr. Richard Spritz, an expert in albinism and other pigmentation disorders, disputes news reports that the odds of a white buffalo being born are less than one in 10 million. 

"In humans, the frequency of albinism in most populations is about one in 15,000, which turns out to be a pretty handy number for buffalo because the estimated number of them in the U.S. is something around 150,000. That means, that any given time, if the frequency of albinism in buffalo is similar to that in humans, there ought to be 10 white buffalo out there." 

But even if other white buffalo have been born in modern times, Miracle holds special significance for Native Americans. She's female, and the bull that sired her died, just as in the prophecy. And, while recent visitors to the Heider farm are sometimes disappointed that the calf's head has turned brown and its body is now a silvery tan, versions of the prophecy state that the white buffalo calf would change colors four times, thus signifying the colors of the four peoples she would unify: black, red, yellow, and white. 

Joseph Chasing Horse, in a phone interview from his home in Rapid City, S.D., adds that winter counts -- which date the telling of the White Buffalo Calf Woman story in sacred ceremonies -- confirm that this is the buffalo calf of the prophecy. 

Larry Johns, a member of the Oneida tribe who works to preserve Indian mounds and other sacred sites, stresses the cultural importance of such recent discoveries as the Gottschall Rock Shelter in Iowa County, which includes a rock painting from CE 900 that tells a story still told by Ho-Chunk elders. 

"My father and grandfather went to Indian schools, and they were beaten for speaking their language," says Johns, who along with fellow Oneida and representatives of other tribes has helped put together the new Native American Council of Madison, a group dedicated to promoting cultural awareness. "They tried to beat the Indian out of us. It's imperative that we go back to these stories and find out what they mean to us -- and who we are." 

And how does Miracle fit into all of this? Says Johns, "There's so little understanding of Native American issues and ideas that any opportunity to get people interested -- even if it's just coming to see a white buffalo calf -- is a good thing." 

No matter what happens to Miracle in the coming months and years, Joseph Chasing Horse says the birth is a sign from the Great Spirit and the ensuing age of harmony and balance it represents cannot be revoked. That doesn't mean that the severe trials Native Americans have endured since the arrival of Europeans on these shores are over. Indeed, the Lakota nation mounted the longest court case in U.S. history in an unsuccessful effort to regain control of the Black Hills, the sacred land on which the White Buffalo Calf Woman appeared 2,000 years ago. 

"Mention that we are praying, many of the medicine people, the spiritual leaders, the elders, are praying for the world," says Joseph Chasing Horse. "We are praying that mankind does wake up and think about the future, for we haven't just inherited this earth from our ancestors, but we are borrowing it from our unborn children." 
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Birth of the White Buffalo Signifies Unity and Healing 

On August 20, at a Bison farm in Janesville, Wisconsin, a White Buffalo Calf was born -- the first in more than 50 years. According to an Associated Press report, more than 1500 people from all over the country have visited the calf named Miracle, including over 100 representatives of American Indian Tribes who consider the White Buffalo to be sacred. 

On September 12 two Sioux Holy Men, Arvol Looking Horse, the nineteenth holder of the pipe that -- according to legend -- was given to the Sioux by White Buffalo Calf Woman, and medicine man Floyd Hand led a ceremony for the newborn calf. During the sacred pipe ceremony they encouraged peace and unification for Indian and non-Indian alike. According to the AP article, Looking Horse said, "The buffalo's return signifies that 'a healing would begin,' and dreams and visions would return." Hand saw it as "An omen that's bringing a new change to a new world. The 21st century that's coming 'round is going to unify all of us. We are here to encourage people to pray for peace. 

We're gonna heal together now."