One summer a long time ago, the seven sacred council fires of the Lakota Sioux came together and camped. The sun was strong and the people were starving for there was no game.
Two young men went out to hunt. Along the way, the two men met a beautiful young woman dressed in white who floated as she walked. One man had bad desires for the woman and tried to touch her, but was consumed by a cloud and turned into a pile of bones.
The woman spoke to the second young man and said, "Return to your people and tell them I am coming." This holy woman brought a wrapped bundle to the people. She unwrapped the bundle giving to the people a sacred pipe and teaching them how to use it to pray. "With this holy pipe, you will walk like a living prayer," she said. The holy woman told the Sioux about the value of the buffalo, the women and the children. "You are from Mother Earth," she told the women, "What you are doing is as great as the warriors do."
Before she left, she told the people she would return. As she walked away, she rolled over four times, turning into a white female buffalo calf. It is said after that day the Lakota honored their pipe, and buffalo were plentiful. (from John Lame Deer's telling in 1967).
Many believe that the buffalo calf, Miracle, born August 20, 1994 symbolizes the coming together of humanity into a oneness of heart, mind, and spirit.
"American Legend is made flesh" No longer mythical White Buffalo a beacon to Plains tribes......
from the Houston Chronicle, Sept. 24, 1994
Miracle stands in her mother’s shadow, her champagne coat, ghostlike against the chocolate-colored herd. She is a mat of fuzz on a newborn frame. Yet Miracle is rarely among land-roving beasts. She is the mythical White Buffalo - symbol of hope, rebirth and unity for the Great Plains tribes.
Searching for Miracle will take you down long gravel path on the Heider family farm in south central Wisconsin. Three thousand pilgrims made the walk down the coarse stones earlier this month hoping to catch a glimpse of Miracle. Every day more come from all corners of the country. One man came from Ireland.
If all of this sounds a little crazy to you, consider this: The chance of a white buffalo being born makes your odds of winning the lottery look good, Miracles likelihood, according to the numbers from the National Buffalo Association, is somewhere in the range of 6 billion. Consider also that the only other documented white buffalo this century died in 1959. His name was Big Medicine. He lived for 36 years.
Now, there is Miracle, the infant calf born to a 1,100 -pound mother and now deceased father on Dave and Valerie Heider’s farm on the banks of the Rock River. She is a beacon for believers.
"The arrival of the white buffalo is like the second coming of Christ, says Floyd Hand, a Sioux medicine man from Pine Ridge, S.D., who was one of the first to make the pilgrimage. It "will bring about purity of mind, body and spirit, and unify all nations, black, red, yellow, and white."
There are countless stories about the White Buffalo, a different tale for every tribe.
"Many years ago, says Tony Ironshell of the Rosebud Sioux tribe in South Dakota, three hunters encountered a white buffalo calf. The white buffalo turned into a woman and instructed the hunters to return to their village and prepare for her arrival. When she came four days later, she carried the sacred pipe. With that pipe she brought Sioux laws, and many things changed. The pipe from the White Buffalo Calfwoman is still kept in South Dakota.
In their ancient White Buffalo Dance, the Fox Indians of Wisconsin shadow the vision of a legendary hunter, who could turn himself into a white buffalo at will after the beast appeared to him in a dream. A white buffalo with red eyes and horns, says the Fox, gave the hunter the power to single-handedly turn back an army of attacking Sioux.
Before the white buffalo’s birth, the Heiders had never known an Indian and knew little about Indian culture.
Now they are careful to say, "Native American," quickly correcting their tongues when they slip. And they readily recount the white buffalo stories they have heard.
"I am told, " says Valerie, "that Miracle’s birth means the rebirth of the Native American culture and a new peace with the whites.... I know that you have never been bear-hugged until you’ve been bear-hugged by a Native American."
Susan Shown Harjo cried at her Washington D.C. office when she heard about the birth of the white buffalo calf. "It filled me with joy that had to spill over," says Harjo, who is Cheyenne and Muskogee. "The white buffalo is an important symbol for a lot of Plains Indians because they are messengers of creation. It is an important sign of well being on the verge of an awakening."
Harjo, president of the Washington based Morning Star Institute, which works to preserve native culture, says the birth of Miracle should make "all people pause the world over."
Heider had never even heard of a white buffalo when he went out at 6:00 am on Aug. 20 (1994) to check the buffalo cow who seemed ready to give birth. Instead of the reddish-brown calf he expected to find, he had a shock.
"She was white. I couldn’t believe it," he says, still shaking his head. "That kind of thing only happens in fairy tales - and, now I know, in Indian tales too."
Heider called a journalist friend to tell her he had a cute little story about a white buffalo being born. He had no idea of the importance of the White Buffalo in the Indian mythology. The next thing he knew, The Associated Press picked up the story, and what started as a trickle of curious visitors became a torrent.
The Heiders, who are about 12 years shy of retirement age, have taken refuge in their home. The attention has become too much. Still, they have turned down countless offer to take Miracle off their hands.
"Miracle is going to stay and be with the herd," says Valerie.
They see no end to the crowds, but have no plans to profit from Miracle’s birth. They’ve put out a bucket for donations from well-wishers to provide for security and are awaiting a $4,600 electric gate they hope will give them week-day peace.
"As far as we know, Miracle will be something people will want to see as long as she lives," says Dave. "But my life ain’t gonna stop."
Even as he speaks, two more pilgrims pull up and start to make the long walk to Miracle.