Marking the 20th anniversary of ‘Miracle,’ the white buffalo calf

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

It has been 20 years since “Miracle,” the white buffalo calf, was born in Janesville, Wisconsin, on the 45-acre farm owned by Dave and Valerie Heider.

That was Aug. 20, 1994.

Miracle’s birth was not only rare in terms of buffalo, but tantamount to the spiritual beliefs of the American Indian and those of the Canadian First tribes.

First, Miracle was not an albino. Her skin pigment was normal, but her condition rarely shows up throughout generations. That made her a fulfillment of prophecies, according to the Sioux. Miracle was the first white buffalo born since “Big Medicine” came to be in 1933. He lived for 36 years.

Since 1959, Native Americans have been waiting for the return of the mystical White Buffalo — equivalent to the Second Coming of Christ.

To believers of Native American spiritualism, Miracle was a symbol of harmony, marking the rebirth of the culture and new peace among all people. Her birth brings people of all races together in peace, harmony and spiritual awakening.

Over the years, thousands visited the Heider farm, mostly to pray. Visitors left dream catchers, talismans, feathers and medicine bags. Some just wept, while others came just to get a glimpse of a white buffalo. At one point, Miracle drew about 2,000 visitors per day. She died in 2004 on the Heider farm.

Three White Buffaloes have been born on the Heider farm in the last 20 years. The second was stillborn. The third, named “Miracle’s Second Chance,” was born Aug. 25, 2006, during a lightning storm. He was killed by a bolt of lightning Nov. 26, 2006. He was not related to Miracle.

He was born in lightning and taken by lightning,” said Stephanie Schwartz, webmaster for the Miracle and Miracle’s Second Chance websites.

The legend of the White Buffalo

Legend has it that long ago, the seven sacred council fires of the Lakota Sioux came together to hunt, as food was scarce. As two men hunted, they met a beautiful woman, who floated as she walked. While both men were tempted by her beauty, only one attempted to fulfill his lust. As soon as he reached for the woman, he turned into a pile of dust and bones.

Sent by the Creator, the woman, according to legend, explained to the second hunter that she allowed the first to fulfill his lust and live an entire lifetime in a few moments before he decayed where he stood.

The second hunter returned to his people, announcing that the woman would come bearing a sacred bundle, known as a prayer pipe.

With the pipe, she taught them seven sacred ceremonies, including those to heal the mind, body and spirit. The woman also revealed the Vision Quest for direct communication with the Creator, and the Sundance Ceremony, to pray for all the people.

She also taught the tribes the value of the buffalo, women and children. As she taught the council fires, the woman turned into a black, yellow and red buffalo. Before leaving them, she promised to return, rolled over four times, and became a white buffalo calf.

White Buffalo Calf Woman told the people she would again return for the sacred bundle that she left with them,” Jim and Dena Riley, of, reported. “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.”

The four colors represent colors of man, the Rileys report. When the white buffalo appears, the prayers of the pipe are with the Creator. The prophecies of unity and abundance are fulfilled. It also signifies spiritual enlightenment, awareness and peace.

According to the story, the sacred bundle left by the White Buffalo Calf Woman is still with the people in South Dakota, along the Cheyenne River. A man known as the Keeper of the White Buffalo Calf Pipe protects it.

Ted Kerasote, in the article, “The Spirit of Hunting — What Native Americans Knew,” (Sports Afield, June 1994), wrote, “In this religion, everything was invested with spiritual power, which the circumpolar Inuit call inua and is present in not only animals, birds and fish, but also in trees, mountains and the very air itself. The dichotomy that informs the Judeo-Christian world — the spiritual above, the profane here on Earth; people divine, animals base — did not exist for the old hunter-gatherers. Animals were not considered mere objects to supply human needs, nor a ‘natural resource’ to be harvested. Rather, as John Witthoft writes, ‘The Indian considered the animal as an intelligent, conscious fellow member of the same spiritual kingdom.’”

From the Aug. 13-19, 2014, issue

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