Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
August 12, 2000 - Issue 16

White Buffalo Has Meaning Beyond Color
by Dorreen Yellowbird,
Columnist for the Grand Forks, ND Herald

I make a traveling salesman look like a stay-at-homer during the summer. I like cruising the highways on weekends. The traffic usually is light, and the roads are fair. Those rolling plains and the sweet scent of fresh air are enticing.

As I traveled west, then south, a week ago toward Standing Rock, dodging flagmen, road construction signs and loose gravel on the newly tarred interstate, I watched for the towering buffalo statue on the hill near Jamestown. That stone buffalo is my signal to try to catch a glimpse of White Cloud, our special North Dakota white bison. She had a calf this spring that I haven't seen.

I take special interest in this anomaly in the animal world for several reasons. It is said by some she is part of an ancient prophecy about the White Buffalo Calf woman. She also has character. In spite of the fact that she is
different from her brown counterparts, lives in a world contrived by humans and is rejected by her own, she carries on.

A couple of years ago, one of our photographers and I had an opportunity to see her up close. Her caretaker allowed us into the Jamestown pen with the buffaloes. He wasn't at all nervous in the pen with those huge beasts. The herd was milling around the hay and feed that is provided for them, but there was poor White Cloud off by herself. She tried to move into the herd of cows nearer to the feed, and one of the large females went after her with head down and horns slashing. She moved off by herself. That has been how I have seen her most of the time - off by herself but in the close proximity of the herd. With the calf, I noticed, she was closer to the herd. Her calf, incidentally, is not white, but it does look to me lighter than the other calves.

There is a controversy or at least, a disagreement, about the status of this white buffalo in the traditions of Indigenous people. Is White Cloud part of the prophecy?

The prophecy - which differs somewhat, depending on the person who tells the story - generally says that many years ago, at the beginning time of the people, a beautiful woman came to the people. She taught the people ceremonies and a way of life. As she was leaving, she gave the people a Sacred Pipe to be used in ceremonies. She told the people she would return when four white buffalo calves were born.

It is said that that Sacred Pipe given by the White Buffalo Calf woman is held by Arvol Looking Horse, a Lakota medicine man from Green Grass, S.D. In a statement made by Looking Horse in 1998 at Pipestone, Minn., he said the first white buffalo calf was born in 1994 and that all four have been born. The people are faced with disaster or harmony. If the people unite in spirituality, there will be peace and harmony and the Indigenous nations would regain their position in the world, he said.

At the 2000 World Unity conference at Sisseton, S.D., Looking Horse said the Comet Hale-Bopp was one of the signs that the prophecy is upon us. He added there would be 12 young people, six females and six males, from the seventh generation who will lead the people back to strength and renewal. I understand that Looking Horse includes White Cloud as one of the four white buffalo calves.

One who disagrees is a Sisseton/Wahpeton traditional person who told me there are only two of the four white buffalo calves born. He said that these two buffaloes have turned white, yellow, red and black or shades of those colors. He claimed when the White Buffalo Calf left the people, she turned these four colors. The true white buffalo calves will also turn those colors, he said.

The veterinarians who take care of White Cloud say that she is truly an albino. So for some, she does not meet the criteria of the four colors.

Many Native people have been guided by the Creator and received spiritual help from entities such as the White Buffalo Calf Woman and others. Also, this prophecy was told many years ago before the birth of the first calf. And it is a part of a foretelling of a great change in the year 2000. Some say we are in the year 2000, and if all the calves have been born, why has nothing happened? Perhaps, one of the spiritual leaders said, we don't
understand the span of time. It is not measured by years but by a different determination, or we could be at that point of change now.

A good change, I hope - one where there is harmony and peace in the world, this nation and our communities.

Yellow Bird's e-mail address is or she can be reached at (701) 780-1228.
NOTE:  In accordance with Title 17, U.S.C. Section 107, all material here is posted without profit or payment for non-profit research, educational, and archival purposes only.