|Now, before I tell you this story, there are
which need to be said. Please understand that
the White Buffalo as well as White Buffalo Calf Woman are lila wakan, very
sacred, to the Lakota Peoples. This story has been handed down for hundreds
of years, and is told exactly the same way every time that it is told.
There is a real Pipe, the sacred Chanunpa, which was brought to the People
by White Buffalo Calf Woman. To some, this may be an entertaining story,
a myth....but the Lakota Peoples know, they believe.
The Lakota-Sioux are a warrior tribe, and the
men always walk before the women. However, White Buffalo Calf Woman is
the greatest heroine in Lakota history. She has the greatest place of honor,
as you will see. The Sioux feel that she brought their identity to them,
and made them what they are. It is commonly felt by all that she put her
mind into their bodies. At the Sun Dance, a woman who is honored and respected
by all is given the true honor of representing White Buffalo Calf Woman.
Although she appeared to the Sioux as a human woman, she was also a Buffalo.
The Buffalo is the Indian People's Brother, who gave himself totally to
the People that they might live. The rare White Buffalo was seldom seen,
but was treasured far beyond price or possessions.
During the Summer time, long ago, the Sioux
Peoples were very hungry. It was long before the Horse was brought to the
Peoples of the Great Plains, long before recorded history. During this
particular Summer, there was no game for the Sioux to eat, and they were
starving. This was at the time that the Seven Council Fires of the Lakota
Oyate, the Nation, came together. Each day, they sent scouts out to look
for game, but they found none.
One of the bands assembled were the Itazipcho,
Without Bows, whose chief was Standing Hollow
Horn. One morning he sent two young hunters out to find game. They found
nothing, so they climbed a high hill, hoping to have a vantage point where
they might see game afar. Halfway up this hill, they saw a speck in the
distance. It was coming toward them, getting closer and closer. As this
speck drew closer, they saw that it was a person, but it floated rather
than walked. They saw that it was very sacred, lila wakan.
Soon they saw that this was a young woman,
who was very beautiful. She was the most beautiful woman they had ever
imagined. She wore a very beautiful white buckskin dress, tanned so well
that it shone bright in the Sun from a great distance. She had red, rosy
cheeks, and her dark eyes lashed beautifully in the Sunlight. Her
dress was adorned with the most intricate and lovely quill work that had
ever been seen.
The colors of this quill work were so beautiful
that no human woman could have done it. She was Ptesan-Wi, White Buffalo
Woman. She carried a large bundle and a fan of sage leaves in her hands.
Her long hair was so black that it had a blue lustre to it, and it flowed
freely all about her, except for one strand on her left side. This was
tied up with Buffalo fur. Great power surrounded this maiden.
Now, the two young men were awed. One realized
she was sent by Wakan Tanka, the Creator.
The other young man desired her body, and stretched his hand out to touch
her. But she could not be treated with disrespect, and a bolt of lightning
immediately struck him. He was instantly burned up into a small pile of
charred bones. (Some say that he was suddenly surrounded by a cloud, in
which he was eaten up by snakes, leaving only his bones. This is also how
a man can be eaten up by lust).
The other young man was respectful, and she
spoke to him, saying, "Good things I am bringing, something holy to your
Nation. A message I carry for your People from the Buffalo Nation. Go back
to the camp and tell the People to prepare for my arrival. Tell your chief
to put up a medicine lodge with twenty four poles. Let it be made holy
for my coming."
So the hunter returned to the camp. He told
everyone what had happened, and that the sacred woman was coming. So the
eyapaha, the crier, was sent around the great encampment. He said, "Someone
sacred is coming. A holy woman approaches. Make all things ready for her."
They put up the big medicine
lodge and waited. In four days, they looked
and saw her approaching. She carried the big bundle in her hands, and her
splendid white buckskins shone from afar. Her long black hair was flowing
as she walked.
Standing Hollow Horn invited her into the lodge.
entered the lodge, and circled the interior
Sunwise. The chief was awed also, and spoke respectfully to her. He said,
"Sister, we are glad that you have come to instruct us."
So, Ptesan-Wi instructed the chief in what
she wanted done. In the center of the lodge she wanted a sacred altar,
owanka wakan, erected. It would be made of red Earth, with a Buffalo skull
and a three-stick rack for another holy thing which she had in the bundle.
She traced with her finger upon the Earth, what she wanted, and they did
exactly as she instructed them to do. Then, she circled the lodge Sunwise
again. Stopping in front of the chief, she opened the sacred bundle.
Inside this bundle was the Chanunpa, the sacred
Pipe. She held the Pipe out to let the People see it. She was holding the
pipestem with her right hand, the bowl in her left hand. To this day, that
is how we hold the sacred Pipe.
Standing Hollow Horn spoke, "Sister, we are
glad. We have had no meat for some time. All we can give you is water.
" They dipped some sweet grass, wacanga, into a skin bag of water and gave
it to her, and to this day the People dip either sweet grass or an Eagle
wing into water and sprinkle it on a person to be purified.
Ptesan-Wi showed the People how to use the
sacred Pipe. She filled it with red willow bark tobacco, chan-shasha. She
walked around the lodge four times after the manner of Anpetu-Wi, the great
Sun. This represented the circle without end, the sacred hoop, the medicine
wheel, the road of life. She placed a dry Buffalo chip on the fire and
lit the Pipe with it. This was peta-owihankeshi, the fire without end,
the flame to be passed on from generation to generation. She told them
that the smoke rising from the bowl was
Tunkashila's breath, that of Grandfather Mystery.
She showed the People the proper way to pray.
She showed them the right words and gestures. She showed them how to sing
the Pipe filling song and how to lift the Pipe up to the Sky, toward Tunkashila,
and down toward Grandmother Earth, to Unci, and then to the four directions
of the universe.
She said, "With this sacred Pipe, you will
walk like a living prayer. With your feet resting upon the Earth and the
pipe stem reaching into the Sky, your body forms a living bridge between
the Sacred Beneath and the Sacred Above. Wakan Tanka smiles upon us, because
we are now as one: Earth, Sky, all living things, the two legged, the four
legged, the winged ones, the Trees, the grasses. Together with the People,
they are all related, one family. The Pipe holds them
all together." "Look at this bowl," she continued.
stone represents the Buffalo, but also the
flesh and blood of the Red man. The Buffalo represents the universe and
the four directions, because he stands on four legs, for the four ages
of creation. The Buffalo was put in the West by Wakan Tanka at the making
of the world, to hold back the waters. Every year he loses one hair, and
in every one of the four ages he loses a leg. The sacred hoop will end
when all the hair and legs of the great Buffalo are gone, and the water
comes back to cover the Earth."
"The wooden stem of this Chanunpa stands for
all that grows on the Earth. Twelve feathers hanging from where the stem,
the backbone-- joins the bowl, the skull, are from Wanblee Galeshka, the
spotted Eagle, the very sacred bird who is the Great Spirit's messenger
and the wisest of all flying ones. You are joined to all things of the
universe, for they all cry out to Tunkashila. Look at the bowl: engraved
in it are seven circles of different sizes.
They stand for the seven sacred ceremonies you will practice with this
Pipe, and for the Ocheti Shakowin, the seven sacred campfires of our Lakota
Then, White Buffalo Calf Woman spoke to the
women. She told them that it was the work of their hands and the fruit
of their bodies which kept the People alive. She said, "You are from the
Mother Earth. What you are doing is as great as what the warriors do."
So, the sacred Pipe is something which binds
men and women together in a circle of love. The men make the bowl and the
stem, and the women decorate it with quill work. When a man takes a wife,
they both hold the Pipe at the same time and red trade cloth is wound around
their hands, thus tying them together for life.
Ptesan-Wi had many things in her bag for the
women. She gave them corn, wasna (pemmican), and wild turnips. She showed
them how to make the hearth fire, and then how to cook meat and corn.
She talked to the children next, because they
understanding beyond their years. She explained
that what their mothers and fathers did was for them, that their parents
could remember being little once, and that these children would grow up
and have children of their own s omeday. She said, "You are the coming
generation, that is why you are the most important and precious ones. Someday
you will hold this Pipe and smoke it. Some day, you will pray with it."
Then, to all of the People, she said, "The Pipe is alive. It is a Red being
showing you a Red life and a Red Road. And this is the first ceremony for
which you will use the Pipe. You will use it to keep the spirit of a
dead person, because through it you can talk
to Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery Spirit. The day a human dies is always
a sacred day. The day when the spirit is released to the Great Spirit is
another. Four women will become sacred on such a day. They will be the
ones to cut the sacred tree, the can-wakan, for the Sun Dance."
She said that since the Lakota were the purest
among all of the tribes, Wakan Tanka had chosen them to have the sacred
Chanunpa. They were to keep it for all of the Indian Peoples of the Turtle
To chief Standing Hollow Horn, she said, "Remember,
this Pipe is very sacred. Respect it and it
will take you to the end of the Red road. The four ages of creation are
in me, I AM the four ages of creation. I will come to see you in every
generation cycle. I shall come back to you." As she was leaving, she said,
"Toksha ake wacinyanktin ktelo--I shall see you again."
As she walked away into the setting Sun, she
stopped and rolled over four times. The first time, she turned into a black
Buffalo. The second time, she turned into a brown Buffalo. The third time,
she turned into a red Buffalo. The fourth and final time, she turned into
a female white Buffalo calf. You see, a white Buffalo is the most sacred
living thing which you might ever encounter.
The White Buffalo Calf Woman disappeared over
horizon. As soon as she was gone, great herds
of Buffalo appeared. Some of them allowed themselves to be killed, so that
the People might survive. From that time on, the Buffalo provided everything
which the People needed to survive.