While many boys go through the Cub Scout program before joining Scouts, my sons and I participated in the YMCA’s Indian Guides program. In addition to learning many useful skills that later applied to the Scout program, we learned a lot about Indian traditions. Our tribe was the Hopi tribe and we learned the most about those people. We did, however, learn a number of other Indian traditions.
One of the traditions we knew about was that of the white buffalo. The white buffalo is sacred to several of the Plains tribes but the legend and tradition is particularly strong for the Lakota . There are several variations of the legend but the basic theme is the same. About 2000 years ago two warriors were hunting on the plains. They saw a form coming toward them that became a white buffalo. The white buffalo transformed into a beautiful maiden. One hunter recognized the maiden as a sacred being and knelt before her. The second warrior had baser intentions in mind and walked toward the maiden. The two were covered by a dust cloud that arose around them. When the dust settled only a pile of bones lay next to the maiden.
The White Buffalo Calf Woman told the remaining warrior to go back to his camp and prepare the People for her coming. She would return and teach them how to pray. Four days after the meeting with the warrior a cloud appeared near the council of elders gathering. A white buffalo calf stepped from the cloud and transformed into the young maiden. She brought with her a sacred bundle which contained the sacred prayer pipe and taught the People the seven sacred prayers. She told them that as long as they protected the bundle and performed the sacred ceremonies the People would live on.
After she had completed teaching the prayers, White Buffalo Calf Woman left the bundle with the People and said she would return. She said there were four ages and she would visit them in each of the four ages. At the end of the fourth age she would return and bring peace and harmony to the land. As she left the council gathering she became a black buffalo. She walked a ways and laid down becoming a yellow buffalo. She rose and after walking a little further became a red buffalo. Finally she changed into a white buffalo. This changing of color of White Buffalo Calf Woman is believed to symbolize the four colors of man (black, yellow, red and white) and the four cardinal directions.
The sacred bundle is kept in a sacred place today. It is on the Cheyenne River Indian reservation in South Dakota. It is entrusted to the keeping of Dr. Arvol Looking Horse, a nineteenth generation Lakota. He is known as the keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe.
Recently a white buffalo was born on a Lakota ranch in Greenville, Texas near Dallas. He was named Lightning Medicine Cloud because he was born during a thunder storm. This is not an albino buffalo but a true white buffalo- white with a black nose, black eyes and black tips on the tail. At a ceremony describing the significance of this birth, Chief Standing Strong said, “This is a commemoration of the white buffalo which is very sacred in Native American history. This is the third one that has ever been born. When four specially marked white calves are born Whope will reappear, uniting nations and ushering in a new age. When the fourth one is born, according to Indian legend, it's the beginning of the end time.”
Whether this birth of a white buffalo is the continuation of a prophecy or not everyone agrees this is an extraordinary event. The odds against this kind of birth are 10 million to one. Some say the last white male buffalo died in 1959. Some believe the white buffalo Miracle born in 1994 also fulfilled a prophecy. Whatever our beliefs we should treat this occurrence with dignity and respect.