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When you think of places where the buffalo roam you think of South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, or maybe Montana. In June the news came in from Litchfield County in Connecticut of the birth of a rare white buffalo, or bison. The appearance of a white bison is considered sacred to many Native Americans and the birth is celebrated with rituals and ceremonies, such as a naming ceremony scheduled for later this month. Hundreds of people and a number of tribal elders are expected to attend.
Peter Fay, whose farm lies just below Mohawk Mountain, began keeping a bison herd four years ago as a hobby when he is away from his day job in excavating and rock crushing. He hopes to capitalize on the nation's desire for a leaner, healthier alternative to beef. He enjoys the hardiness and the wildness of the animals. To that end he has the intricate tattoo of a bison on his right shoulder and another over his heart.
Fay had watched the calf being born and was surprised by the unexpected oddity. Indian friends explained the importance of the birth to him. The animal is definitely not an albino. He has researched the bloodline of the calf and is fairly sure that it is all bison, and has not been crossed with domestic cattle at any point (as many bison have been). DNA tests are underway to make sure that it is truly a full-blooded bison.
Local Native Americans have been bringing gifts of tobacco and colored flags since the birth. In return Fay is planning to offer one of his hay fields as a campsite for those coming to the naming ceremony. It was Fay who extended the invitation for Native Americans to perform the ceremony, and he and his daughters have been invited to participate in the event. The event will most likely consist of feasting and talks by elders.
Just a few weeks before the miraculous birth of this bison, the National Bison Legacy Act was introduced into the Senate to designate the American bison as the national mammal. The American bison is, of course, an animal as iconic to the U.S. as the panda is to China.
Fay has no plans to sell the bison and is taking the responsibility for the sacred animal seriously. The more he learns of the Native American beliefs surrounding this event the more he understands its importance and the blessing that they tell him has been given to him.
Last year a white bison was found killed and skinned. Some believe that it was a hate crime against Native Americans. Fay is making sure that someone is on duty at his farm at all times to prevent any such occurrence with this bison.
The white bison is considered a symbol of hope and unity.
Laurie Kay Olson
Animal News Blogger