The Janesville Gazette

Ceremony honors legacy of Miracle the white buffalo

Published Friday, October 1, 2004 10:45:45 AM CDT

By Danielle Letenyei/Gazette Staff
Photos by Al Hoch/Gazette Staff

Drums were sounded as people arrived at the Heider farm in Janesville on Thursday to participate in a memorial ceremony for Miracle, believed to be the first white buffalo born since 1933. Some Native Americans believe the white buffalo is a sign of peace.
Now that Miracle, the born-white buffalo, is gone, it is up to those she touched to carry on her message, Gary Adamson of Elkhorn said.

"We were led by the hand by Miracle," said Adamson, who is part of the Choctaw nation of Native Americans. "Now it's time to carry on what she taught us. Now it's time to walk alone but carry on what she has brought and taught us."

Adamson paid his respects to Miracle at a special ceremony Thursday at the Janesville farm of David and Valerie Heider.

Born Aug. 20, 1994, Miracle was believed to be the first all-white buffalo born since 1933. Some American Indian tribes believe a white buffalo is a sacred sign of peace.

Many of those who attended Thursday's ceremony had visited the Heider farm soon after Miracle was born.

Mary Walker of Delavan said her life has changed in the 10 years since she visited the farm after Miracle's birth.

"I am happier than I have ever been," she said.

Railroad ties border the spot where Miracle is buried. Cedar, one of four elements considered sacred, covers the top of the railroad ties.

Before the ceremony, Chief Cloudwatcher Worth of California walked the perimeter of the burial plot fanning smoldering sage with a fan made of eagle feathers. The ritual drives away evil spirits, Worth said.

"Thank the Great Spirit for the white buffalo for, without the buffalo, we have nothing," he said.

Medicine man and healer Floyd Hand traveled from South Dakota to preside over the ceremony. Hand was also at the farm after Miracle's birth. He said he became sick on the day that Miracle died, Sept. 19.

"Those of us who have a spiritual connection with her felt her leaving," Hand said. "She brought a lot of gifts to every one of us. I've seen the miracle that she did to people."

While Hand spoke, Billy Bob Grahn of Janesville went up to each person and fanned smoldering sage using a spotted eagle feather. The process, called smudging, is meant to cleanse a person of negative thoughts and energy.

Four old sacred songs followed Hand's words.

A figure made to represent a man, called a waluta, and a plate of food were placed at the center of the burial ground. The figure is a representation like Jesus for Christians, Hand said.

Miracle is buried next to her father.

Or at least most of her is. The Heiders saved her head and hide and are having a full body mount made.

She will be displayed in the gift shop on their farm, surrounded by the many things people have left in her honor over the years, Dave Heider said.

"We were told years ago that, if she died, people would still come because this is where she was born and where she is buried," Heider said.

Having Miracle mounted, however, is a desecration in Native American beliefs, Hand said.

Miracle was respected by other religious affiliations besides Native American beliefs, Dave Heider said

"We talked about how people throughout the world would feel about it," Dave Heider said. "We thought it was appropriate."
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