A white buffalo named Lone Star no longer resides behind Fuel City in downtown Dallas. The immediate reaction of Native people, along with concerns expressed by Friends of Animals, have caused the owner of the truck stop to return the animal to a more desirable and respectful location.
Yolanda Bluehorse lives in Dallas but is an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. She said the situation came to light on February 16 when TV stations broadcast stories about the buffalo. She immediately tried to contact the owner. “I wanted to ask him ‘what are you trying to do?’" Mindful of a somewhat similar situation in which a different white buffalo calf was essentially turned into a carnival side show, Bluehorse was understandably concerned for this current animal. “You don’t do this,” she said, “especially where you sell alcohol. It is not right. It’s disrespectful. It’s offensive.”
The owner called her back on the 18th. “I explained, you need to be asking the tribes, ‘is it okay to use it in this fashion if you truly respect Native people like you say in the news reports?’"
Yolanda believes the owner of the truck stop was perhaps simply ignorant of tribal cultural and spirituality. The buffalo is female and is pregnant with a calf, which some Natives and animal activists say made the situation all the more offensive. Lone Star is a white buffalo that was bred to be white, as opposed to the ‘true’ white buffalo which are extremely rare. Even so, it’s still a white buffalo and held in great esteem and respect by Native people.
J. Eric Reed is a Dallas attorney, an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and a former tribal attorney and prosecutor for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. He talked of the location where the animal was on display. “Basically there’s a fenced in area and drainage ditch on the back side of a levee on the Trinity River.” It's in one of the busiest areas of downtown Dallas. “You could tell [from TV coverage] the animal was distressed. You could tell there was some stress.”
“Even if you’re not a Lakota or Great Plains Indian, the buffalo is still an iconic symbol, not just as a Native but an American icon and you have respect for it,” Reed said. “We [Choctaw] did not get the same creation story as the White Buffalo Calf Maiden but we still hold the animal as a sacred animal and wouldn’t do anything to disrespect it.”
Reed also held a three-way telephone conversation with the Fuel Station owner and with Edita Birnkrant, Director of Friends of Animals in New York. “We’re against any commercial exploitation of animals by businesses,” she said. “The owners of Fuel City were exhibiting this white buffalo as a scheme to draw more people to their business so they profit off it, the oddity of a white buffalo. I communicated to him that now you’re going to have two different groups of people in opposition to this – animal advocates and the Native American community.”
Edita Birnkrant also made the case that it would be worth the owner's while to do the right thing and relinquish the animal, because the negative publicity would be bad for his business. “I think they were hoping interest in the story would just go away and be swept under the rug.”
During that telephone conversation he agreed to relinquish the white buffalo. “I was glad he did the right thing,” Birnkrant said.
Bluehorse agrees: “He made the decision to relinquish the buffalo to Native American people."
She said that a decision had not yet been made as to where the buffalo would eventually go. “We’ve got to go pick it up, pay off the lease and get the paperwork. We have a couple ideas. I want to give it to an animal sanctuary or have a private friend of ours with a ranch take it.”
Reed added, “The private sanctuary is where she will be at least temporarily housed. It’s a placed where she will be protected and well fed and well cared for.”