To the Native American plains people, the mighty herds of buffalo that roamed the land were much more than a source of sustenance. While it is true that the gift of the buffalo provided meat, hides, warm robes, and materials for tools, it was also an honored brother in existence and a symbol of abundance and gratitude expressed toward all of creation. In the past, uncountable herds darkened the landscape but it was only very rarely that a pure, snow-white calf was born. Such a remarkable birth signified prayers heard and promises of unity, balance, and the human potential, and the white buffalo itself was considered a sacred talisman.
The birth of the white buffalo is still considered the completion of a prophesy given to the Lakota people during the mysterious visit of White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman. It is said that long ago, when the Lakota people lived not on the plains, but in the forest, White Buffalo Woman came to bring integrity to the people and present them with the gift of a pipe and a ceremony of blessing that promised wholeness with all things.
But the gift of the White Buffalo Woman did not come without responsibility. She told the people that they were to remember that every breath was sacred and that within each person glows a speck of the Great Spirit's fire that glows within all things. Each woman and man, she said, possessed the ability to inspire the fire of harmony, caring, and consciousness in another and, in giving the gift, one's own soul would burn more brightly. To that, she added, "Honor all creatures as your sisters and your brothers for all are sacred parts in the body of the Great Spirit and each one is holy." Finally, she prophesied that she would return to once again present her message of unity, balance, and peace.
The birth of a white buffalo calf remains a miraculous event, but the real miracle is not simply the rarity of the fur, which is said to change four times throughout the animal's lifetime. It signifies a time of profound change and responsibility for mankind, as well as the four dominant energies (black, white, yellow, and red) coming together as one, in peace. Though the actual birth of the animal carries great spiritual significance, the legend of the white buffalo teaches that the deep meaning inherent in the appearance of the calf: unity, consciousness of the brotherhood of all things, harmony, peace, sacrifice, and wholeness, is the responsibility of all people. The way of life presented by White Buffalo Woman and reinforced by her talisman the white buffalo can encourage us to live in a more harmonious way, respectfully honoring and communing with all living things.