Why The White Buffalo Is A Sacred Symbol To The Lakota Tribe

The haunting and enigmatic image of the great white buffalo has been a sacred symbol among various Native American tribes for centuries. The vast scarcity of albino buffalo is enough to almost guarantee that you will never see one in your entire life. According to the Orlando Sentinel, only about one in 10 million bison calves are born white, so it's no wonder the fabled beast has become something of a deity within Native American communities. Seeing one is an especially rare phenomenon, and traditionally, the white buffalo has been viewed as a portent of benevolence and good fortune by many of the original inhabitants of America. 

Where did all begin, though? Why are white bison considered to be an otherworldly medium of goodness to the Native American people? The American Indian College Fund reports that the story of the great white buffalo stretches back generations, where it originated among the Lakota people.

The story of the Great White Buffalo

According to legend, many years ago, the Lakota Sioux people came together for their ceremonial meeting of the seven sacred council fires. It turned out to be a treacherous and barren summer, and the tribes found themselves wanting for food with little hope in sight. Then, after two young tribesmen volunteered to venture off into the South Dakota wilderness in search of game, they found themselves face-to-face with an unlikely traveler (per American Indian College Fund). 

The traveler, a beautiful young woman clad entirely in white, is said to have advised them to "return to your people" and await her coming, though nobody knew what her coming actually meant. Soon after, she appeared before the multitude of starving Lakota people and presented them with a sacred pipe. She taught them of the world's mysteries, the interconnectivity of all things both living and dead, and of life's unequivocal righteousness. Legend states that the woman then dropped to the ground and rolled back and forth four times before turning into a white buffalo calf and disappearing forever. A sea of buffalo suddenly appeared in the wake of her vanishing, and the Lakota Sioux people were brought back from the threshold of certain starvation. Since then, they've regarded the great white buffalo as sacred, a bringer of salvation and promise, as the American Indian College Fund relates. 

White buffalo born recently

In June of 2022, KKTV reported that a white buffalo calf had been born to the The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in North Dakota. "I didn't believe it," Tribal Chairman Jamie Azure shared following the birth. "I said I'll believe it when I see it because we were gifted a white buffalo last year, and just the odds that a calf would be born this year, or at all, are just astronomical." Azure and his tribe reportedly conducted a ceremonial Sun Dance during the birthing process (via KFYR). 

Ten years prior, on April 30, 2012, the body of a white buffalo calf born to a North Texas Lakota Indian ranch was discovered slain and skinned. "Someone who probably knew we were out of town killed him and stripped the meat," Arby Little Soldier, the ranch's owner, told reporters after the tragic and barbaric discovery. The community offered up a $45,000 reward to anyone who could assist in finding the person responsible (per Yahoo! News).