The legend of the White Buffalo has been a part of Native American folklore for more than two thousand years. It is the tale of the mystical White Buffalo Calf Woman and how she brought to them the prophecy of peace and balance for all people. The legend may vary from one tribe to another across the North American continent, but the basic message is always the same.
Image via Treasures of the Southwest
The normal, burly,brown American Bison, or buffalo, is a symbol of spirit life and abundance to Native Americans. For centuries it helped provide food, shelter, tools, and clothing to the indigenous peoples of North America.
According to the oral history of the Lakota Sioux a time came when the seven council fires came together and camped. Things were rough for the people. There was drought, no game, and the people were starving. Two of the young warriors left the camp to hunt in the Black Hills of what is now South Dakota. Along the way they came across a beautiful young woman dressed all in white buckskin.
Image via The Pueblo Cheiftan
She approached the men and told them to go back to their people and tell them that she was coming. This spirit being brought many things to the Lakota people. She gave them a bundle which included a pipe which showed them how all things are connected. She taught them the mysteries of the earth, and how to pray and follow the proper path while living on earth. She gave them seven sacred ceremonies in order to ensure a future with harmony, peace, and balance.
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These ceremonies are: the sweat lodge for cleansing and purification, the naming ceremony for children, the healing ceremony to restore health and balance to body, mind, and spirit, the adoption ceremony for making relatives, the vision quest for communing with the Creator, and the sundance ceremony to pray for the well-being of all people.
Image via Nature North
Then the teachings were complete White Buffalo Calf Woman told the people that she would one day return for the bundle she was leaving with them. She told the people that there would be four ages and that she would look back on them at the end of each. At the end of the fourth age she would return and bring peace and harmony back to a troubled world.
Image via Lakota Ranch
When the time came for White Buffalo Calf Woman to depart she lay down and rolled on the ground four times. Each time she arose, having changed in color. The first time she was a black buffalo, the second time yellow, the third time red, and finally she was a while buffalo calf and symbolizing the fulfillment of the prophecy. The four colors are said to represent the four colors of man, as well as the four directions of the world.
As she left great herds of buffalo surrounded the camps. The Lakota honored the pipe and bundle and from that day forth the buffalo were plentiful. The legend continues to be passed down at council meetings, sacred ceremonies, and through the tribal storytellers.
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The sacred bundle is said to still be in the possession of the Lakota and is kept in a special place at the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
From legend we turn to the present and the births of white buffalo calves. There are different ways that white buffalo can happen scientifically. One is that the animal is actually a beefalo, a mix of bison and cow and the coloring comes from the cow side of the family. Second is a small genetic anomally that causes a bison calf to be born white only to darken to the characteristic brown over time. Third is that the animal is an albino. Fourth is that the animal could have leucism (or leukism) which is the loss of several types of pigment.
The statistic I found quoted for the rarity of the birth of a white buffalo is one in ten million. This number is apparently quite anecdotal when you consider that the entire bison herd size in North America is approximately 381,000 according to the National Bison Association. There is one herd of about eleven white buffalo in Oregon alone for example. Perhaps white buffalo just aren't as rare as they once were. Maybe, just maybe, this is heralding the return of White Buffalo Calf Woman.
You can own your own white buffalo by clicking here. This is Roam the White Buffalo, and he is a bit smaller than the others pictured here, but a lot tamer and a lot cuddlier. Best of all you don't have to feed it or walk around with a shovel behind it.
Sources: Treasures of the Southwest, Lakota Ranch, Wikipedia, American Indian College Fund