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White Buffalo Calf Woman

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on July 31, 2008

While on retreat in New Mexico, the staff and participants were treated to a fantastic opportunity – a “Becoming Relatives” ceremony presented by my new friend Karen. (I’ll withhold her full name for confidentiality). In this picture, several people are helping raise the lodge that will be used for part of the ceremony and also as a sleeping shelter for a few of the women staffers that same night.

While we as a crew probably took longer assembling the thing than Karen could have probably done by herself, it was a very fun and memorable experience as our ‘guide’ explained the purpose of each step. The tearing of the red cloth to make the flags on the top poles, the raising of the poles, the placing of the outer covering – all have a meaning and order that must be followed, and yes – treasured.

As dusk fell, everyone gathers outside the lodge in a semi-circle around the front opening. Karen sits in front dressed in full length ceremonial dress, a white confection of skins that gracefully defines the beauty of this medicine woman and her beliefs. In front of her are the skins of buffalo laid respectfully on the ground at her feet. As she begins to speak, a hush falls into the valley and I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel a shiver crawl down my back as nature opens our eyes and ears to the surrondings and the quiet, but forceful words being spoken. A fire is lit at her feet, and the smells of sage and sweet grasses wafts over to the farthest corners. With accompanying gestures of respect, our spirit guide welcomes the cardinal directions, explaining the meaning of each. She tells the story of White Buffalo Calf Woman, a sacred entity and prophesy in itself cherished not only by the Lakota tribes, but also other religions. A rare twist in the story – Karen had been dreaming about the reappearance of White Buffalo Calf Woman and indeed, such a woman did appear in our midst and take on the name of White Buffalo Calf Woman. (That is their story to tell, not mine). There was a lot of tearful joy in this ceremony as it progressed on to a blessing ceremony as each sister was welcomed to the buffalo robe. By the tribes they had been split into, Hopi, Zuni, Apache, Comanche and Navajo, each tribe consisting of 10 newly bound sisters, they were called to the rug, then ceremonially blessed and given a ‘medicine’ pouch. The moments passed with tears of joy, hugs and sharings. Towards the end of the groups’ blessings, I had to leave because I wasn’t feeling well and coughing loud enough to disturb the proceedings, so when I was offered a ride back to camp just then with Turkey Tom and Motor Matt, I sadly accepted so as not to disturb the peace and solemnness of the proceedings.  I missed the final closing and blessing of the staff members, so did not receive my Sister name or medicine bundle, but the memories I take away from what I was able to help with in setting up the lodge, making a beaded prayer chain for a hawk feather and the ceremony I did get to observe will stay in my heart. We are all blessed with the hope the White Buffalo Calf Woman brings to us.

For lessons of hope to add to your life, do a search and read the stories on White Buffalo Calf Woman. Each telling is a little different, but the message of the hope it brings is universal.


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