Legend of the White Buffalo

White Buffalo

Legend courtesy Jim and Dena Riley

The White Buffalo is sacred to many Native Americans. The Lakota (Sioux) Nation has passed down The Legend of the White Buffalo–a story now approximately 2,000 years old — at many council meetings, sacred ceremonies, and through the tribe’s storytellers. There are several variations, but all are meaningful and tell of the same outcome. Have communication with the Creator through prayer with clear intent for Peace, Harmony, and Balance for all life living in the Earth Mother.

Spirituality among Native and non-Native Americans has been a strong force for those who believe in the power of the Great Spirit or God.

It matters not what you call the Creator. What matters is that you pray to give thanks for your blessings and trust the guidance from the world of Spirit. Many truths about Spirit are told and handed down from generation to generation.

White Buffalo Calf Woman

White Buffalo Calf Woman

The legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman tells how the People had lost the ability to communicate with the Creator. The Creator sent the sacred White Buffalo Calf Woman to teach the People how to pray with the Pipe. With that Pipe, seven sacred ceremonies were given for the people to abide to ensure a future of harmony, peace, and balance.

Legend says that long ago, two young men were out hunting when, from out of nowhere, came a beautiful maiden dressed in white buckskin. One of the hunters looked upon her and, recognizing her as a wakan, or sacred being, lowered his eyes. The second hunter approached her with lust in his eyes, desiring her for his woman. White Buffalo Calf Woman beckoned the lustful warrior to her, and as he approached, a cloud of dust arose around them, causing them to be hidden from view. When the dust settled, nothing but a pile of bones lay next to her.

As she walked toward the respectful young hunter, she explained to him that she had merely fulfilled the other man’s desire, allowing him, within that brief moment, to live a lifetime, die and decay. White Buffalo Calf Woman instructed the young man to return to the People and tell them to prepare for her arrival to teach them the way to pray. The young hunter obeyed.

When White Buffalo Calf woman arrived with the sacred bundle (the prayer pipe), she taught the People the seven sacred ways to pray. These prayers are through ceremonies that include the Sweat Lodge for purification; the Naming Ceremony for child naming; the Healing Ceremony to restore health to the body, mind, and spirit; the adoption ceremony for making of relatives; the marriage ceremony for uniting male and female; the Vision Quest for communing with the Creator for direction and answers to one’s life; and the Sundance Ceremony to pray for the well-being of all the People.

When the teaching of the sacred ways was complete, White Buffalo Calf Woman told the people she would again return for the sacred bundle that she left with them. Before leaving, she told them that within her were the four ages and that she would look back upon the People in each age, returning at the end of the fourth age to restore harmony and spirituality to a troubled land. She walked a short distance, looked back toward the people, and sat down. They were amazed to see she had become a black buffalo when she arose. Walking a little further, the buffalo lay down, this time arising as a yellow buffalo. The buffalo walked a little further the third time and arose as a red buffalo. Walking a little further, it rolled on the ground and rose one last time as a white buffalo calf signaling the fulfillment of the White Buffalo Calf prophecy.

The changing of the White Buffalo Calf Woman’s four colors represents man’s four colors–white, yellow, red, and black. These colors also represent the four directions, north, east, south, and west. The sacred bundle left to the Lakota people is still with the People in a sacred place on the Cheyenne River Indian reservation in South Dakota. It is kept by a man known as the Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe, Arvol Looking Horse.

The legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman remains ever-promising in this age of spiritual enlightenment and conscious awareness. Many of us are looking for signs of peace in today’s world of confusion and war.

“With the return of the White Buffalo, it is a sign that prayers are being heard, that the sacred pipe is being honored, and that the promises of prophecy are being fulfilled. White Buffalo signals a time of abundance and plenty.” (from Sams and Carson, Medicine cards)

Though harsh as the world we live in may be, throughout recorded history, there have been spiritual leaders teaching peace, hope, and balance (synergy) amongst all life. This was taught by great teachers such as Jesus, Buddha, the Dali Lama, and Native American leaders.

Chief Crazy Horse, Chief Seattle, and Chief Red Cloud are a few of the visionary leaders who committed their lives to bring peace and internal happiness to all who they touched. They were tangible signs of goodwill toward all men, women, and children.

Legend courtesy Jim and Dena Riley, added March 2005. Updated by Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated March 2023.

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Also See:

The Plight of the Buffalo

Buffalo Hunters

Hunting Buffalo with Teddy Roosevelt

Myths and Legends of the Sioux

Native American Mythology & Legends

Native American Main Page