Hundreds of American Indians will visit a former dairy farm in Goshen, Connecticut today for a sacred naming ceremony for what is believed to be a rare white buffalo. The bull calf was born June 16, and researchers say the baby bison, who is off-white and not an albino, is a one in 10 million rarity.
A report by NPR’s All Things Considered aired this morning notes that the calf’s DNA still needs to be tested to confirm that he truly is a white bison. Regardless, the ceremony will be held.
To be part of such an event “brings so much happiness to us because of the stories of the white buffalo calf that [were] passed down to us for generations,” Marian White Mouse, Oglala Lakota, of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, told NPR.
A white buffalo calf, said Jace DeCory, a Lakota who’s also from South Dakota, “is a sign of rebirth. It’s a good omen. We feel good when white bison are born, because it reaffirms our belief that things will be better for our nation and for our people.”
Peter Fay, a fourth-generation Goshen farmer, owns the ranch where the calf was born. He began raising bison four years ago, and currently has a herd of about 20.
According to the Associated Press, Connecticut farms host only about 100 bison, a tiny fraction of the populations in Western states, such as South Dakota, the home of Sioux tribes that attach the greatest spiritual meaning to white bison. As some push for greater recognition of the bison’s significance to both the United States and American Indians, advocates say the event on the far-flung East Coast is well placed to boost exposure for the cause.
“Any kind of awareness we can raise around bison is a good thing,” said Jim Matheson, assistant director of the National Bison Association in Denver.
Word spread quickly after the bison’s birth, and Fay invited American Indians to hold ceremonies at his farm below Mohawk Mountain. In turn, he and his two daughters were asked to participate in the celebrations, which will include a feast and talks by elders. “They’re here almost every day, teaching me,” the 53-year-old Fay, who has bison tattoos on his shoulder and chest, told the AP.
White Mouse said the birth of a white bison is a sign from a prophet, the White Buffalo Calf Woman, who helped them endure times of strife and famine. White Mouse’s family of four is flying to Connecticut for the ceremonies.
“For me, it’s like a surreal event. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would ever come in contact with one of them in my lifetime,” said White Mouse.