White Buffalo Calf Woman Promised to Return
by Bette Stockbauer
Grey Horn Butte (Devil's Tower), in the Black Hills of Wyoming, is of special significance to the Lakota Sioux people because near it they received the rituals of their religion. Their legend concerns a Messiah figure who came at a time when the people were in great suffering. She is called the White Buffalo Calf Woman, and when she came she brought a pipe made of the leg bone of a buffalo calf. When she gave the pipe to the people, she said that it would be their way to pray to God, to ask for help when in trouble, to give thanks and praise. She taught them seven rituals which are still in practice today. So began for them a new relationship with the world of spirit.
Legend says that, before she left, the wakan (holy) woman promised to return. As she walked away she turned into a buffalo that changed into four different colors ó red, black, yellow, and white -- colors which represent the races of humanity. The birth of four white buffalo calves in our own era symbolizes for the Native Americans the return of the White Buffalo Calf Woman (see accompanying text box). They say she has come to unify the races and help in the healing of the earth.
Over the generations the original pipe has been given into the keeping of one worthy person. Arvol Looking Horse, a Lakota Sioux spiritual leader, is the 19th Generation Keeper of the Pipe. In this function it is his task to be a caretaker of the Mother Earth, to bring her honor and respect by continuing the ceremonial traditions of his ancestors.
On 21 June l996, 3,000 people gathered at Grey Horn Butte to pray for global unity and the healing of the earth. This World Peace and Prayer Day was inspired by the vision of Arvol Looking Horse. In preparation for the day he contacted world leaders and indigenous groups on all continents, asking them to pray, at the same time, in their own sacred centers.
Looking Horse said: "According to spiritual leaders and Elders ... the "signs" of indigenous people's prophecies have shown themselves. The prophecies tell us it is time to begin mending the Sacred Hoop and begin global healing by working towards world peace and harmony.... The birth of the White Buffalo Calf lets us know that we are at a crossroads ó either return to balance or face global disaster. It is our duty to return back to the sacred places and pray for world peace. If we don't do this our children will suffer."
For some of those gathered on the summer solstice, the journey to Grey Horn Butte had begun on 3 May in Wahpeton, Saskatchewan, Canada, where 80 trail riders had begun a 1,200 kilometer journey to Wyoming called the Unity Ride. Its purpose was to unify tribes which had been torn apart by artificial boundaries, cultural destruction, and internal disharmony.
Some who made the ride were the Bundle Keepers, those given the responsibility of care for the sacred objects of their religion. Ceremonies were held at sacred sites along the way.
A tribal Elder with a shaggy buffalo mask entered first to bless the sacred ground. The ceremonial pipe, the chanunpa, was offered to Tunkashila, the Father Spirit. There were prayers to the four directions, to the earth and to the sky. Long chants became hypnotic, the words circling around to the trilling refrain of the Indian women. From Tibet, the Noble Princess of Kartze Ozang recited a prayer to the Wind Horse. She mingled the Tibetan names of Padmasambhava and Avalokitesvara with those of the native deities. One could hear, from time to time, the piercing cry of a hawk, or see an eagle ride the wind. In the end all were invited to offer their individual prayer bundles, their private petitions to the spirit world. After the ritual, the microphone was available for two more hours for anyone to share a song, a thought, or a prayer.
Arvol Looking Horse, in deep reverence on this day, came briefly to the microphone and addressed the gathering: "Today we have come together, not to talk, but to pray. This gathering is for global healing, because no one person can do it. Today it doesn't matter what you believe or where you come from ó but the prayers must come together. We need each other.
"Today the message of peace must be delivered. I have prayed with many world leaders for peace on Mother Earth and I know that a lot of good people are coming here today, people with good hearts and good minds.
"Today we are coming together in awareness and knowledge of our sacred sites. When people have been praying at these sacred places for many generations, we know that the sacred energy is there. Today there are a lot more people who have been feeling that energy. If we pray from our heart in a respectful manner, that's where the healing begins -- it's called natural law, the gift of life the Great Spirit has shown us; it's going to bring balance in its own way.
"We remember the stories foretold by our ancestors ó these are going to carry our children into the generations that are coming. It is up to us today to carry this message. We have a lot of prophesies from 100 years ago that are happening today. That is why we made this journey, because we know the power of prophesies. Crazy Horse predicted that in the seventh generation many horses of different colors would gather at a sacred place. Black Elk said that in the seventh generation the mending of the sacred hoop would happen.
"We are trying to get this knowledge of our ancestors back to the people because we are in the seventh generation today, when once again we turn a page in history. Already we have signs that show us ó the birth of the white buffalo calf. Today people are caught up in anger, hatred, jealousy and confusion. They carry so much pain that they are striking out. But ceremonies like the one we will do here will heal that pain and show us how to find inner peace.
"We need to get
the message of respect and honor to all nations upon the earth -- to
carry that message of peace and non-violence. Our families are suffering,
our children are suffering, but prayers of peace can reach all nations.
Today we pray so that people all over the world can have the balance
of life. From this day we hope to see some changes throughout the world."
Share International, September 1996 )