Respected and revered by Native Americans, the buffalo has remained an important part of their culture. Used for shelter, weapons, food, and clothing, the buffalo played an integral role in Native American daily life.
The white buffalo, in particular, holds special meaning. As the tale goes, a white buffalo once appeared to two men, disguised as a woman who carried white hides on her shoulders. Of the two men, one respected her. The other did not. Legend has it she turned the man who didn’t respect her into a pile of bones. However, for the respectful man, she gave him a pipe. She also taught him rituals and music, afterward promising she would return in a time of peace.
An extremely rare animal, the white buffalo tale is merely a lovely story to some. But to others, the tale of the woman who came as a white buffalo represents the hope that someday a peaceful society will prevail. The symbolism of the white buffalo story has been said by experts to closely match other stories of similar nature, both cultural and religious.
Although the white men hunted buffalo extensively, it was morally wrong for Native Americans to hunt and kill buffalo nearly for sport. Sadly, due to hunting, buffalos had all but died out by 1893. In fact, only 300 buffalo remained in North America when Grover Cleveland finally outlawed the killing of the animal.
Interestingly, white buffalo were born in Arizona in 1977. People have since flocked to see them. For those who believe in the tale of the white buffalo tale, the births represented the hope that perhaps peaceful times were emerging. Whether it’s true or not, the tale of the white buffalo provides a hope we all need—a hope for a brighter and peaceful tomorrow.
Joseph Paige © 2006