GOSHEN, Connecticut—A week after a crowd of more than 1,000 people from all over the country flocked to a ranch in northwestern Connecticut to witness a naming ceremony for a sacred white buffalo, the baby calf named Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy and his mom were peacefully grazing in the back pasture.
Everything was back to normal at the Mohawk Bison Ranch, owner Peter Fay said on Friday, August 3, a week after the Saturday, July 28 naming ceremony. “I expected that many people to come,” Fay said.
Fay is not a Native but has opened his heart and mind to the Lakota beliefs regarding the birth of a white buffalo and to the Lakota people who traveled from across the country to conduct the naming ceremony. The Lakota say that the birth of a white buffalo—which happens once in every ten million births—is an intensely sacred event. They say it’s a manifestation of the White Buffalo Calf Maiden, or Ptesan Wi, who is revered as a prophet. In a time of famine, the Maiden taught the Lakota seven sacred rituals, including the sweat lodge, and gave them their most important symbol of worship, the sacred pipe. The birth in Goshen was so important that Lakota Medicine Man Steve Stonearrow traveled from California to conduct the ceremony. Lakota elders Chubb and Marian White Mouse, Marian’s brother Wilbur Leon Old Man Morrison, and Shirley Khabass, traditionalists who follow the Lakota ways, travelled from Pine Ridge and elsewhere to join him. A local couple who are relatives of the White Mouse family and have participated in the family’s sun dance for years also participated in the naming ceremony. The couple, who asked not to be named for privacy reasons, were responsible for getting the word out to Indian country about the white buffalo birth. Fay too was among those in the group that performed the ceremony. “It was cool,” he told Indian Country Today Media Network. “It’s so good to be around Steve. He’s amazing and he makes everything feel so easy. If you tumble a little bit, he knows it right away and fixes it. The same with Marian.”
A few hundred invited guests, mostly Native, stood at the entrance to the pasture where the ceremony took place, around 50 yards away, behind a wire fence with a gate. Fire keepers kept smudge pots lit at the gate post, and at a sacred fire built under an arbor in the pasture where the ceremony took place. Singers and a drum were nearby. The rest of the crowd stood in a separate pasture behind another wire fence.
The night before the naming ceremony, Stonearrow, the elders, and others participated in a sweat lodge and a ceremony called lowampi—a night prayer to call the spirits, who gave Stonearrow the white buffalo calf’s name.
During the naming ceremony, thunder rumbled, lightning cracked and a downpour of rain drenched everyone. Marian White Mouse welcomed the rain as a blessing. There’s drought back home in South Dakota where people are breathing the smoke from wild fires, she said. She said the birth of the white buffalo brings hope to a world that needs healing.
The thunder was perhaps even more appropriate to the occasion: Stonearrow, the medicine man (pejuta wicasa) and holy man (wicasa wakan) is a heyoka medicine person. Heyoka means sacred clown. The sacred clown in Lakota tradition is the person who is upside down, sideways, backwards, goes against the norm and is there to help the people see themselves, Stonearrow told ICTMN. And the heyoka’s teachers are the Thunder Beings, who provide all ceremony to medicine men.
Two ceremonies took place in the rain and thunder, Stonearrow said. “We did the hunka, which is the making of a relative, and we did c’aje tun pi, which means to give birth to a name.” Stonearrow said the large crowd came “because they’re looking. They’re looking for their faith, they’re looking for something to believe in. And the birth of a white calf in some prophecies is the foretelling of the White Buffalo Calf Maiden’s return,” he said. “But you don’t need a white calf for her to return; she comes back all the time.”