By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Call it karma or whatever you like, Old Crow says. The spirits had a way of balancing the ledger, of reclaiming that which was not rightly honored. A big drum began to sound, and three old men sitting beneath two post oaks lifted their voices in song.
"I told my wife at the time what happened," Old Crow recalls. "And she said, 'If anything ever happens to that calf, he's going to blame you.'"
It was as though that little white buffalo had led them all down a path that forked suddenly. And then, he asked them to choose the way.
Not far from the fence line of the Lakota Ranch, near a copse of trees, a bare limb jutted up from a mound of turned soil, marking the spot where Lightning Medicine Cloud was buried. The red ear tag of Buffalo Woman, the calf's mother, hung from one of its branches. She lay just a short distance away in a cloud of black flies.
This May 3, the day Little Soldier reported the white buffalo slain, law enforcement descended on the ranch. On hand were a game warden, representatives from the Hunt County Office of Homeland Security, the Hunt County Sheriff's Office and a Texas Ranger. Little Soldier knelt in the packed dirt at the edge of a shallow grave and carefully removed the earth covering the white buffalo's carcass.
He explained that he and his wife, Pat, left for a rodeo in Oklahoma City on April 25. The animal was placed in the care of David Rice, another of the war chiefs, who said he'd last seen him alive and well on the 27th. The Little Soldiers returned late in the evening of the 29th. The next morning, as he prepared the ranch for the buffalo's first birthday celebration and the Greenville High scholarship powwow, he found the carcass. It wasn't far from the spot where he'd driven a ceremonial lance into the soil to sanctify the pasture during the naming ceremony as onlookers whooped and yelped. It had been skinned, he said, and some 200 pounds of flesh had been carved from its young frame.
The animal's head, tail and tongue faced east, he said. "That was Indian."
Pat told investigators the hooves were missing and claimed she had seen what appeared to be a bullet hole in its skull. On the advice of his elders, Little Soldier said, he buried the white buffalo next to its father, Big Ben, which was killed by lightning the month before, the night a tornado cut a seven-mile trail through Hunt County.
And just yesterday, Arby continued, he found Buffalo Woman lying near the pond, away from the herd. She seemed depressed, he said, as though grieving over the death. The next morning, she too was dead. He suspected she'd been shot.
An investigator asked him who he thought might have done it. Pat spoke Yolanda Blue Horse's name almost immediately. She was a "witch," she said. Little Soldier said one of his war chiefs may have been involved. In front of the police, Pat began screaming over and over, "If it was him, I don't want to know!"
Albert Old Crow was always against every move he'd ever made regarding the white buffalo, he said. Old Crow hounded Little Soldier about his decision to charge for parking at the calf's naming ceremony.
Roger Seals, one of the sheriff's investigators, left the group to inspect Buffalo Woman's carcass. If the animal had been seen alive the day before, decomposition was remarkably rapid. Its rib cage was exposed, along with much of the mandible.
Seals made his way back over to Lightning's grave. He met a man named Sam Lone Wolf, whom Little Soldier had described as his "spiritual elder." Lone Wolf said he was Cherokee, Seals' report states, and that he considered himself more of a "medicine man." He'd just driven up from Palestine, where he ran a dojo out of his home. In an online martial arts profile, Lone Wolf says he runs a wolf sanctuary and rarely travels without one of his animals at his side "for protection." Lone Wolf, Little Soldier said, had advised him to bury the white buffalo quickly.
Little Soldier laid down his shovel and was clawing away at a thin layer of earth with his hands. A black horn with a red string tied around it began to emerge. Seals saw a feed sack, and as Little Soldier dug deeper, he uncovered a small piece of red cloth. Slowly, the white buffalo came into view. They saw the bare, fan-like thoracic vertebrae that formed his growing hump. They saw his legs and his hooves, which hadn't been severed after all. And they saw hide and hair covering his ribs. Before them lay the desiccated husk of Lightning Medicine Cloud, bellwether of the White Buffalo Calf Woman's return, which looked very much like it had been dead and buried for some time.
Old Crow was born in the oil and ranching hamlet of Hammon, in west Oklahoma. It was populated by the descendants of a peaceful Cheyenne band savaged one day in 1868 on the banks of the Washita River by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer's cavalrymen. What was left of Chief Black Kettle's band relocated to present-day Hammon, where they received a land grant. But the blood never stopped flowing. Old Crow grew up watching his father drink himself to death. He saw alcohol kill his friends by suicide, car wrecks and bullets.
Good greif! This story spirals into a "WTF is going on here" tale? Truth can be crazier than fiction. I can safely say that before I read this, my only interest in buffaloes was the meat, but dang! this story has religion, anthropology, law, and suspicion. A very good read!
Very well written piece, thank you for your investigative diligence; so appreciate your skills. Upon reading the comment Tanka1 wrote, stating there was an insurance policy; together with the multitude of lies and the blatant theft of donations- seems obvious to me that this Arby fellow needs to be charged with theft, fraud, obstruction of justice,animal cruelty, not to mention moral bankruptcy. The man is despicable,his wife should be ashamed instead of belligerent. My people,all Native Americans, are far too noble to claim this fool- he needs to be shunned and cast out. My prayers to the White Medicine Cloud, Old Crow, and Blue Horse.
Excellent job of breaking this down. So well written. I appreciate knowing what happened. My husband and I had been on a trip to Dallas, and he had read about the birth of the white buffalo, so we stopped by the ranch. It happened to be during the week before we heard the awful news. We had pulled-into the driveway where some workmen of some sort were up on the road, eventually a man in a golf cart type vehicle came out to talk to us. My husband told him that we had heard about the white buffalo and asked if he was where we could see him. The man looked at my husband kind of strangely, and said that they were busy getting ready for the buffalo's birthday celebration that weekend...so, of course, when we heard what had happened, we realized the buffalo was already dead when we were there. We have both kept trying to find out what happened. Thank you.
This publication is so hypocritical. It will ridicule Christians all day long for their "silly beliefs", so how is this ridiculous story of a holy freaking buffalo given sacred treatment? What is wrong with you bigots?
OK, I'm still missing it. Was the buffalo deliberately killed, who is the prime suspect, why would he do it, was there a motive?
Customary tradition notwithstanding, this should be a fairly simple who-done-it.
Observer has taken an oath in blood not to reveal real names, if it even knows them.
Please, in a paragraph or two, no symbols or signs, what's the story?
@halldecker It might help if you read all they way to the end. This is the third-from-last paragraph. "When you asked me why [Little Soldier] would blame me for the death of that calf, I told you I believed he panicked. He came up on that dead calf and he panicked. What do I do now? What what what what what? Instead of calling somebody that might be able to give him some decent information, he called up [Lone Wolf], and he tells him to bury it. You bury the thing."
@halldecker You are completely correct, halldecker. This piece is terribly written and hard to follow for anyone who is not already familiar with the story. Too much moving between timeframes and too much "he" and "they". I remember reading a writer on the New Yorker staff quoting one of the editors,"You can write the story any way you want, but we will cut it up and make it chronological in the end". Good advice.
@halldecker It appears the white buffalo died from Blackleg, a disease it picked up on the ranch. The investigators found that two other buffaloes had also died from this previously on the ranch. Lone Wolf (Little Soldier''s guru) had advised him not to vaccinate the white buffalo. It appears that when Little Soldier found the white buffalo dead, he panicked because of the money he was reaping from sales of memorabilia while at the same owing the county $6,000 it had fronted him for the naming ceremony. Some of the proceeds from the white buffalo publicity was also supposed to go into a scholarship fund. All this revenue from the white buffalo is still unaccounted for in addition to $17,000 in donations people sent in for reward money to find the white buffalo's killer. Because of all this, Little Soldier decided to make it look like a murder and fabricated accusations against other people. It was also revealed that his guru Lone Wolf has a long history of fraud, he isn't even Indian and has lived several previous identities as a con-artist. Lone Wolf may have had something to do with the misappropriation of funds and since he had Little Soldier wrapped around his finger, he got him to protect him.
@halldecker Little Soldier is the prime suspect because he didn't take care of his animals like he should. He is to blame for the deaths of his animals. The vet suspected blackleg because of the symptoms the buffaloes exhibited before they expired.
The White Buffalo was a symbol and a sign. Old Crow was right in that the commercialization of his birth was a mistake, and Arby found out that it was. The Buffalo did not die of natural causes. He died because of evil in this world. I am a Choctaw Freedman, and I did not hear of the Buffalo's existence, but I now know of it and will revere it. The spirit will protect those of us who believe.
It seems the buffalo are not the only beings in this story that have been "fenced-in, half-domesticated." This is a beautiful telling of a complicated story.
Little Soldier let greed take over what should have been a sacred event. The white buffalo was taken from him because he used it to benefit himself. I remember seeing Little Soldier in press conferences and sympathizing with him. Later on, I got the feeling he was trying to stay in the press; he liked all the attention. Your conclusion of the story in the last two paragraphs was beautiful.
The first Native American to make a Preparation H Commercial.
Legendary Chief Standing Bull.
Which is all I came away from the story understanding.
Can somebody summarize in a paragraph what the Hell happened? Was it blackleg? Was it murder? What the Hell happened?
@halldecker I am an Oklahoma Choctaw Freedman, which means we are Choctaw plus African American. It was my first time hearing about the white Buffalo. However, it was a story that I could relate too! The Buffalo was here as one of four signs. He was murdered--plain and simple! Who did it, is a mystery, but Old Crow told it like it was and is.
@mwa6582751 I don't believe the buffalo was "murdered". Little Soldier didn't take care of his animals and he didn't deserve to have this buffalo or any animals for that matter. He's greedy and he used the white buffalo to his advantage.
I have been following the story for the white buffalo for a very long time. I even stood with Arby Little Soldier one morning when Loyds of London handed him an insurance policy to look at. But first I would like to say that the White Buffalo Calf Woman first came to the Ponca Indians and not the Lakota and gifted them the pipe. Second is that skin color doesn't matter when it comes to descendents as we then fall into a slippery slope when looking for who we are or what culture carries on in our lives although skin may be more fair or dark then previous generations. And that the white buffalo in Goshen has now turned dark and is the sign that distruction is the path we have choosen because we lie, cheat, steal, rape, war, and have forgotten what is truly sacred in the world. Really, if the sixth generation of Sitting Bull has his spirit in profit over sanctity when it comes to the White Buffalo what is left of us? Also, Arby Little Soldiers connection to the House of Yehweh is something to be looked into as he gave them free raign over the podiums at times.