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Native Americans Gather For Ceremony Naming White Buffalo Calf

Dallas, TX – Native Americans from across the country traveled to a ranch near Greenville for the ceremonial naming of a white buffalo calf on Wednesday. KERA's Shelley Kofler has more on the importance of Lightning Medicine Cloud's birth.

Chief Standing Strong: This is a commemoration of the white buffalo which is very, very sacred in Native American history.

According to Lacota Sioux history, Whope, the goddess of peace, once appeared as a white buffalo calf. When four specially marked white calves are born she will reappear, uniting nations and ushering in a new age.

Chief Standing Strong: When the fourth one is born it's the beginning of the end time.

The first white buffalo calf was born in the early 1800's around the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The second was born in 1994. This third one was born May 12 on Arby Little Soldier's ranch near Greenville. Little Soldier traces his ancestry to the Dakotas and the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes.

Little Soldier: That evening it started to rain and thunder and lightning and stuff and hail.

In the darkness Little Soldier thought the newborn calf was a coyote. It wasn't until the next day he knew it was a white buffalo with markings that make him sacred.

Little Soldier: He had to be a male, had to have a black nose, black eyes and a black tipped tail and he had all the features. He's the pure blessed bull that’s been sent here with the message, with the prophesy.

Word of the calf's birth spread quickly among tribal members who began planning the special naming ceremony which some compared to a baptism.

On the big day RV's and tents sat on the perimeter of the 30-acre ranch. Indians came from as far away as North Dakota and Georgia with their own interpretations of what the birth of the white buffalo means.

Poche: I'm Gordon Poche from the Collinsville area up north of here. I'm Homer Choctaw. The new birth it’s going to re-feed everything. The buffalo are coming back. The white bison's here to represent the new age.

Banner: I'm Silver Hawk Banner. I live in Grand Saline. It is a strengthening of faith not only in God, but in creator, in mankind and in my fellow brother and sister. We are all one.

Juan Mancias is from Floresville.

Mancias: We also follow the stars and the moon and that’s what this buffalo is about. It’s to understand that we have to go to the old teachings when our people, our ancestors, were really connected to the earth.

The rituals leading up to the calf's appearance mixed native tradition with modern day patriotism. American flags waved and veterans in ceremonial clothing saluted during an Air Force flyover.

Arby Little Soldier wearing elaborate beading and a feather headdress held a spear high above his head as he rode his horse into an arena. He thrust the spear into the dirt declaring it sacred ground.

An announcement came for cameras to be put away as a small group of tribal leaders moved to the center, offered a prayer then smoked a special pipe.

Mancias: The pipe coming together- the bowl represents the earth and of course the stem represents the creator. It's man and woman coming together creating life, you know?

When it was finally time for the star of the show ranch hands had to coax the herd of buffalo into a pasture where they could be seen. Little Lightning Medicine Cloud, almost six weeks old and 250 pounds, stayed close to his mother as they ambled back and forth along the fence line.

Bonnie Greenwood: I think it’s neat. History, nothing’s better than history.

Bonnie and Gary Greenwood were enchanted and speculated on Greenville becoming famous as the home of the white buffalo calf.

Gary Greenwood: I think it's a great privilege to have that.

Arby Little Soldier says he’s now planning for what's to come. He worries about people wanting to commercialize Lightning Medicine Cloud, take him to stock shows and appearances around the country.

Little Soldier is conferring with tribal leaders on what he should do.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.