Sioux Celebrate Birth of Rare White Buffalo

Event holds deep significance for Lakota Sioux
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2024 3:31 PM CDT
Sioux Celebrate Birth of Rare White Buffalo
A rare white buffalo calf, reportedly born in Yellowstone National Park's Lamar Valley, is shown on June 4, 2024, in Wyoming.   (Erin Braaten/Dancing Aspens Photography via AP)

Lakota Sioux leaders are planning to celebrate a rare event with deep significance: the birth of a white buffalo. Photographer Erin Braaten spotted the calf during a visit to Yellowstone National Park last week, the Guardian reports. A Lakota prophecy holds that the birth of a white buffalo signals better times ahead, though it is also seen as a warning to do more to protect the Earth and its creatures, reports the AP. "The birth of this calf is both a blessing and warning. We must do more," says Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse.

In a tradition that goes back centuries, Looking Horse is the 19th keeper of the sacred White Buffalo Calf Woman Pipe and Bundle. He says that according to Lakota legend, White Buffalo Calf Woman appeared during hard times 2,000 years ago and gave a pipe and bundle to a member of the tribe, saying the pipe could summon buffalo to feed the tribe, the AP reports. He says she turned into a white buffalo calf as she left and said, "Some day when the times are hard again, I shall return and stand upon the earth as a white buffalo calf, black nose, black eyes, black hooves."

An essay on the National Park Service website has more on the legend, noting that a white buffalo calf "is the most sacred living thing" on Earth for Native Americans. Braaten tells KRTV that she photographed the calf moments after it was born. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing," she says. "It was so surreal. I just knew it was something special and one of the coolest things I've ever photographed." Looking Horse says a naming ceremony for the calf has been held. An event to celebrate the birth will be held later this month at the Buffalo Field Campaign headquarters in West Yellowstone. (More Lakota Sioux stories.)

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