White Buffalo Calf Woman
A few hundred years ago, there was a time of great famine among the Great Plains of North America. The Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota were desperate for food, so the highest-ranking tribal elders convened the Seven Council Fires to determine the fate of the Sioux. They came together out of desperation because there was no more game and all of their people were starving, knowing that if someone couldn’t find a herd soon then everyone might die. That’s when the Lakota Chief, Buffalo Standing Upright, sent out two scouts on a mission to save the Great Sioux Nation.
As the two men frantically scoured the land on foot in search of buffalo, desperately wanting to be able to report back to the hunters with good news, they saw a mysterious figure off in the foggy distance. Then, when she approached the men, they noticed that the person was a beautiful young woman in buckskin, with irresistibly dark skin, hair, and eyes. The mere sight of her dazzled them both. In fact, her stunning physical appearance was so alluring that the more carnal of the traveling companions became filled with an uncontrollable lust for the woman.
The Prophetess of the Plains then beckoned for the man to come over to her, but the moment that he tried to approach her he was instantly struck down by a tremendous bolt of lightning. Once the smoke dissipated, only a pile of charred bones remained. This terrified the other man but the medicine woman just calmly beckoned the frightened young man forward, reassuring him that as long as his motives were pure he would be safe. The Prophetess of the Plains spoke to him in his native tongue, so he decided that she must be one of his people. She explained to him that if they would only do as she instructed, they would all be saved.
The holy woman then ordered him to return to his encampment and properly prepare everyone for her arrival. She told the scout to tell their chief that a holy woman was coming with something very important to give to him, but only if he was ready in time. She said that his people needed to immediately erect a sacred council teepee with a buffalo skull altar at the center and then let everyone be gathered there at dawn the following day. So, when the time finally came, Chief Buffalo Standing Upright invited the Prophetess of the Plains to come and sit with his people.
White Buffalo Calf Woman sat down and took out a sacred stone on which seven circles were carved. The Prophetess of the Plains told them that they represented the Seven Sacred Rites which they were to perform from now on. The first is the soul-keeping ceremony in memory of the death of a loved one. The second is the sundance, the third is the vision quest, the fourth the sweat lodge, and so on. She told the Lakota that they were the purest among all the tribes of Turtle Island and that for that, the Great Spirit had bestowed upon them a sacred object called the Chanunpa.
The White Buffalo Calf Woman told the people of the Buffalo Nation that when they fill the Chanunpa the spirits of all things will help them send their prayers to the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka. As part of this, the Prophetess of the Plains taught the people of the Great Sioux Nation the Seven Sacred Rites, which became the basis of their indigenous religious beliefs, five of which are still in use. Simply put, the White Buffalo Calf Woman showed the people of the Buffalo Nation how to pray, and how to use the Calf Pipe, and how to sing the sacred songs that go along with it.
White Buffalo Calf Woman took a glowing chip from the fire and lit the Chanunpa. The Prophetess of the Plains then offered smoke to the sky, the earth, and the four winds. She gave thanks for all the good things which they give. Then she handed the pipe to the person on her left and it went from hand to hand around the circle. In the end, she told Chief Buffalo Standing Upright to look after the Chanunpa because it would guide the people of the Buffalo Nation to the end of the world. At that point, he became the 1st Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe.
Before she left, the Prophetess of the Plains promised to return one day if chaos ever ensued again. As she walked away, she rolled over four times, becoming a black, then red, then yellow, and finally a white calf, hence the name White Buffalo Calf Woman. At that point, the long sought after herds of Buffalo returned to join her. She had warned the Lakota that in times of great strife she would return in the form of a white animal. Then, just as she had predicted, she reappeared as a buffalo in 1994, and then again in 1995, and 1996, and so on and so forth. To make matters worse, she will just keep coming back as yet another bad omen again and again until we begin to curb the devastating effects of the climate crisis.
Chief Arvol Looking Horse, the central figurehead of the Great Sioux Nation, is the 19th Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe, and he knew this was all coming. His grandmother had been the 18th Keeper and on her deathbed, their deceased ancestors came to her and chose him to be the successor. More importantly, she stated that if we don’t change our ways then there won’t be a 20th Bundle Keeper. This is unfortunate because the Chanunpa is a powerful relic that conveys prayers directly to the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka. As such, the Calf Pipe is the most important thing the Buffalo Nation possesses, and it would be an apocalyptic tragedy if their spiritual heritage were lost.
So, knowing what this really all meant, in the mid-1960s, young Chief Looking Horse had to take on the tremendous responsibility of becoming the next and possibly last spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota. He was only twelve years old at the time, but his ancestors chose wisely. Throughout his tenure, he has worked tirelessly towards their cultural survival and revival. Ever since he was appointed as the leader of the Buffalo Nation, Chief Looking Horse has said that we all need to do our part to fight for Mother Earth to make this right. The Great Spirit sends the White Buffalo Calf Woman to give us her blessing, but it also comes as a warning.
Mother Earth is crying out in despair but people just keep polluting the planet and letting everything die in increasingly severe natural disasters, or should I say unnatural? Either way, the bottom line is that the human race simply can’t afford to let Chief Looking Horse become the last Bundle Keeper. The sixth great extinction event could very well bring about the end of our species. So, we must heed the warnings of the White Buffalo Calf Woman before it’s too late. It’s time to respect the wisdom of the Native Americans. Ultimately, the Prophetess of the Plains gave her songs to the pious people of the Buffalo Nation, but she brought them for the whole world to sing.