7/20/2024 7:33:16 AM
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Birth of rare white buffalo calf fulfills prophecy: 'A warning'

Birth of rare white buffalo calf fulfills prophecy: 'A warning'

HELENA, Mont. (AP)-- The reported birth of an unusual white buffalo in Yellowstone National Park fulfills a Lakota prophecy that hints better times, according to members of the American Indian people who warned that it's also a signal that more should be done to protect the earth and its animals.

" The birth of this calf is both a true blessing and caution. We need to do more," stated Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and the Nakota Oyate in South Dakota, and the 19th keeper of the sacred White Buffalo Calf Woman Pipe and Bundle.

The birth of the spiritual calf comes as after a severe winter season in 2023 drove countless Yellowstone buffalo, also referred to as bison, to lower elevations. More than 1,500 were killed, sent out to massacre or transferred to tribes seeking to recover stewardship over an animal their ancestors lived alongside for centuries.

Erin Braaten of Kalispell took several pictures of the calf shortly after it was born upon June 4 in the Lamar Valley in the northeastern corner of the park.

Her family was going to the park when she found "something actually white" amongst a herd of bison throughout the Lamar River.

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Traffic ended up stopping while bison crossed the roadway, so Braaten stuck her cam out the window to take a more detailed look with her telephoto lens.

" I look and it's this white bison calf. And I was just totally, totally floored," she said.

After the bison cleared the street, the Braatens turned their vehicle around and discovered a spot to park. They enjoyed the calf and its mom for 30 to 45 minutes.

" And then she type of led it through the willows there," Braaten stated. Braaten came back each of the next two days, she didn't see the white calf once again.

For the Lakota, the birth of a white buffalo calf with a black nose, eyes and hooves is akin to the second coming of Jesus Christ, Looking Horse said.

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Lakota legend says about 2,000 years earlier-- when absolutely nothing was excellent, food was running out and bison were vanishing-- White Buffalo Calf Woman appeared, presented a bowl pipe and a package to a tribal member, taught them how to hope and said that the pipeline might be utilized to bring buffalo to the location for food. As she left, she turned into a white buffalo calf.

" And some day when the times are difficult again," Looking Horse stated in relating the legend, "I shall stand and return upon the earth as a white buffalo calf, black nose, shiners, black hooves."

A comparable white buffalo calf was born in Wisconsin in 1994 and was called Miracle, he said.

Troy Heinert, the executive director of the South Dakota-based InterTribal Buffalo Council, stated the calf in Braaten's images looks like a true white buffalo since it has a black nose, dark eyes and black hooves.

" From the images I've seen, that calf seems to have those characteristics," stated Heinert, who is Lakota. An albino buffalo would have pink eyes.

A naming event has been held for the Yellowstone calf, Looking Horse said, though he decreased to expose the name. A ceremony commemorating the calf's birth is set for June 26 at the Buffalo Field Campaign head office in West Yellowstone.

Other tribes also revere white buffalo.

" Many people have their own story of why the white buffalo is so important," Heinert said. "All stories return to them being extremely sacred."

Heinert and several members of the Buffalo Field Campaign state they've never become aware of a white buffalo being born in Yellowstone, which has wild herds. Park authorities had actually not seen the buffalo yet and might not confirm its birth in the park, and they have no record of a white buffalo being born in the park previously.

Jim Matheson, executive director of the National Bison Association, might not quantify how uncommon the calf is.

" To my knowledge, nobody's ever tracked the incident of white buffalo being born throughout history. I'm not sure how we can make a decision how often it occurs."

Herds of the animals on public lands or overseen by preservation groups, about 80 people throughout the U.S. have more than 20,000 bison, a figure that's been growing in recent years.

In Yellowstone and the surrounding area, the killing or removal of great deals of bison occurs practically every winter season, under an arrangement between federal and Montana agencies that has restricted the size of the park's herds to about 5,000 animals. Yellowstone officials recently proposed a somewhat larger population of as much as 6,000 bison, with a final decision expected next month.

Ranchers in Montana have long opposed increasing the Yellowstone herds or transferring the animals to tribes. Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte has said he would not support any management strategy with a population target greater than 3,000 Yellowstone bison.

Heinert sees the calf's birth as a reminder "that we require to reside in a great way and deal with others with regard."

"I hope that calf is safe and gon na live its finest life in Yellowstone National Park, precisely where it was designed to be," Heinert stated.


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Elwood Hill

Elwood Hill

Elwood Hill is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years' of experience in the industry. Throughout his career, John has worked on a variety of different stories and assignments including national politics, local sports, and international business news. Elwood graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism and immediately began working for Breaking Now News as lead journalist.

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