"Mostly people just want to know that she's ok," says Stephanie Schwartz. The "she" is Miracle, the white buffalo who captured hearts and attention worldwide when she was born in Janesville on Aug. 20, 1994, and Schwartz is a Colorado woman who runs Miracle's official Web site. Happily, Miracle is more than ok. She's changed colors like a biological kaleidoscope, birthed two buffalo babies and will soon mother a third. Schwartz is happy to be the one who makes it possible for people to know all that.
Not that Schwartz is a professional Webmaster. Semi-retired and partially disabled, she volunteered to set up and run the site after Miracle's owners, Dave and Valerie Heider, found it difficult to keep up with domain fees and other costs associated with the original site they'd started themselves. For Schwartz, it's a labor of love and respect for what Miracle means to Native Americans.
The last known, living white buffalo calf before Miracle was born in 1933. But Miracle is the only one known to have made all the color changes required by the Lakota prophecy. Every August 20, several thousand people come to the Heider farm to celebrate her birthday, often to perform various ceremonies. Not all are Native Americans. People of all religions visit, some just curious, others simply animal lovers.
Many travel great distances to see Miracle, with signatures in the farm guestbook from Ireland, Germany and Sweden, among others. Some have asked to camp near the buffalo pasture. The Heiders acquired a canvas tepee last year and will make it available to campers this summer. People can read about accommodations on the Miracle Web site.
The Web site has generated a tremendous response, says Stephanie Schwartz. It received 1000 hits the first 24 hours it was open on Jan. 31 of this year, and is now up to about 4000. "Her importance to the tribes has not diminished at all," said Schwartz. "The prophecies are still there, and the importance of her color changes never diminishes." Even Ripley's Believe it or Not TV show has added to Miracle's fame, featuring her in a recent episode.
People often write to Schwartz about their experiences visiting Miracle. "No one can really put a finger on what happens when they visit, but every letter about it has been extremely touching," she said. "Everyone speaks of their lives being profoundly changed, the opening of their hearts, or the release of internal pain or anger. Sometimes there is the healing of the body but more importantly, healing of the spirit." Schwartz likes to quote a famous late Lakota Sioiux Holy Man and Medicine Man," Frank Fools Crow, who said, "Not everyone can be cured but everyone can be healed."
People also often write about the graciousness of Valerie's father, Jay, who will escort disabled guests to the gate on a golf cart sometimes and is generally there to lend a cheerful hand to all the company.
Schwartz wants people to know that they can keep up on Miracle's doings week to week by logging in at her website (see end of article for link). And the world continues to watch Miracle closely because she is supposed to be turning white again as the final fulfillment of prophecy.
As for the Heiders, they will continue doing what they have been doing ever since this happened so unexpectedly almost 7 years ago....going with the flow and sharing what they consider a gift to the world. "There's a lot of good people out there," said Valerie. "We just try to let them do what they want to do."
*** To visit Miracle's Official Web site, go to: http://www.homestead.com/WhiteBuffaloMiracle/index.html
To visit Heider's Farm Product and Gift Shop site, go to: http://www.homestead.com/davalswhitebuffalofarm/index.html
Heider Farm Location: 2739 S. River Road, Janesville WI 53565
Telephone: General Information 608-752-2224 Gift Shop 608-741-9632
Charge: None- Donations accepted Cameras and video equipment are prohibited
Call 1-800-48-PARKS for motorcoach and group tour arrangements.
"People still want to put things on the old gate," added Valerie. Also on display in the gift shop is the giant, mounted head of Marvin, Miracle's father. Marvin died of bleeding ulcers10 days after Miracle was born, almost guaranteeing there would not be another white calf since it takes a gene from each parent to produce the white coloration. (The odds are estimated at over 1 in 10 million.) Some Native Americans have said that was also part of the prophecy, and that his death was a kind of protection for Miracle. (Floyd Hand, medicine man for the Sioux nation, had called Dave Heider earlier that week and informed him that Marvin would lay down his life for Miracle, saying only that he saw "a black blockage.")
Not all of Miracle's other relatives have had an idyllic life, either. Her brother, Martin, proved to be so temperamental the Heiders were on the verge of having him butchered. He was granted a last minute reprieve when a Florida rancher bought him and 2 of Miracle's half-sisters. Martin was named after the late Martin High Bear, a Lakota Medicine Man. The Heiders have had many offers to sell Miracle and her offspring, including one from rock star Ted Nugent. Of course, selling Miracle would be out of the question to the Heiders, but they have decided not to sell Lady or Millennium, either. "I'd just as soon keep them," said Valerie. The other buffalo on the Heider ranch are either kept for breeding, sold to other ranchers, or slaughtered for bison meat the Heiders now sell. Even though these buffalo are kept on a "farm," they are still all considered wild, even Miracle, and visitors are not allowed inside the pasture with the animals for their own safety.
Of course, Miracle is not white anymore, either. Her coat keeps changing, going from white to black to red and now what Valerie calls a "blonde brown." Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Sioux tradition expected that to happen, as they see the white buffalo as fulfillment of an ancient prophecy.
That prophecy comes from their sacred story of the White Buffalo Woman, who is said to have appeared 2000 years ago as a beautiful woman dressed in garments made from white buffalo hide. She came to the native tribal people of the Black Hills bearing the sacred peace pipe, and taught them 7 sacred ceremonies. When she left, she slowly changed into a buffalo whose color transmuted from red to black to yellow to white, symbolizing the coming together of humanity.
As the story goes, the woman told the people that when a white buffalo calf was born, it would be a sign of her return and the people must take it as a warning to return to their old ways of peace and harmony.
Native Americans, particularly the Lakota, saw Miracle's birth and subsequent color changes as the fulfillment of The White Buffalo Woman's words. That is why they make constant pilgrimages, bringing offerings that range from simple bundles of sweetgrass and sage to a scarf from the Dalai Lama. The offerings finally completely filled up the gate to the Heider's pasture, so Dave Heider simply took the old gate off, put it inside the shed-turned-gift shop, and put up a new gate which is now also full.
It became evident that a constantly updated site was needed, said Schwartz, when another white buffalo born in 1996 was shot on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Nebraska last March, and people mistakenly thought it was Miracle who was dead. The Heiders were simply unable to keep up with the volume of frantic queries that came in. "They run a farm," explained Schwartz, "and they have a lot of other work to do." Schwartz had made the trip from Colorado to visit Miracle in 1998, and came out again to spend New Year's Day 2001 with the white buffalo family. "I saw the need was really great," she finished, "and this was something I could do." Schwartz was already involved with a variety of Native American groups and Internet mailing groups, and says she is part Native American herself, although she doesn't know what tribe.
She is careful not to speak for any Native Americans, but does keep careful weekly updates on Miracle, along with photos. The Heiders now have 68 buffalo in their herd, and still manage thousands of visitors a year to their farm, so they were only too happy to take Schwartz up on her Web offer. "Something rolls in new every day, it seems," said Valerie Heider. Miracle had her 2nd calf, Lady Miracle, last August. Like Miracle's first offspring, Millennium, Lady was born a "strawberry blonde" color, lighter than most buffalo calves but not white like their mother.
Web Site Proves Miracle Still Happening
by Linda Godfrey
cnb-scene.com: your virtual community:
News of Southeastern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois
Issue #11 March 29, 2001
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