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Indigenous tribes honor birth of a rare white buffalo calf in Yellowstone at sacred ceremony

Wakan Gli
Chief Arvol Looking Horse
Posted at 8:16 AM, Jun 28, 2024

WEST YELLOWSTONE — Early in June, a white buffalo calf was born in Yellowstone National Park. Along with this being an extremely rare occurrence, this white buffalo calf has a deeper meaning for the Native American community.

“We heard there was a little white buffalo calf here. And I wanted to see it. To feel it’s a blessing,” says one of the speakers.

On Wednesday afternoon, Buffalo Field Campaign hosted a ceremony acknowledging the birth of the sacred white buffalo calf. The event was held on the sovereign land of the Shoshone-Bannock, just outside of West Yellowstone. Tribe members from around the country came to speak and represent their people.

“We’re really thankful to bring the people together. Having a gathering today for prayers and songs. For the people to pass the message on to what we're doing, who we are," says Thurman Horse, who is from Porcupine South Dakota, and a member of the Lakota tribe.

Wednesday’s ceremony was led by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe and Bundle. He spoke about the first white buffalo born in the wild, which was in Wisconsin in 1994.

“When I first heard it, my heart was so heavy. I just want to cry”.

Indigenous tribes honor birth of a rare white buffalo calf in Yellowstone at sacred ceremony

Now, over 30 years later, another white calf is born.

“This is the second coming of the white buffalo calf,” says Chief Arvol Looking Horse.

But why does the birth of this sacred animal make Chief Arvol Looking Horse so sad? In the indigenous community, there is a prophecy that began more than 2,000 years ago.

“Ptesan-Wi, the white buffalo calf women. She told the people: 'Next time I shall return and stand upon the earth as a white buffalo calf with black nose, black eyes, black hooves. Then everything is going to be so sickly. Mother Earth, Unci Maka, is going to be sick and have a fever.'”

According to the prophecy, the return of the white buffalo calf is a blessing but also serves as a warning of coming changes in the earth. It is a sign calling for cooperation among people. Humans must come together globally to protect the well-being of Grandmother Earth.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse says when he heard about the second coming of this white buffalo calf, “It struck me so much. I'm very happy, but very sad that this is happening in our time right now. We’re here to honor Unci Maka, Mother Earth, and when she dies we die”

At the end of the ceremony, the name given to the white buffalo calf was revealed: Wakan Gli, which means "return sacred."