By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Less than a week later, Texas Ranger Laura Simmons called Hunt County Sheriff's Office investigator Seals. The county judge said he had received a voice message from Little Soldier on April 30, the day he told investigators he found the carcass. In fact, the message was left at 10:30 in the morning, roughly one hour after he would have stumbled upon his sacred, mutilated body. The judge called him back and Little Soldier asked whether he would still be willing to say a few words at the upcoming powwow. He talked about the rodeo in Oklahoma City he'd just attended, but he never mentioned the white buffalo.
A few days later, May 12, the investigators attended Little Soldier's powwow, which was now a memorial. The clouds above were heavy and gray, and the wind blew hard, the way it did when Lightning was born. Little Soldier stepped up to the emcee's booth. He wore a palm-leaf cowboy hat with a large feather tucked into the hatband and what looked like a huge necklace made of bear claws.
"We're celebrating his birthday today," he said, the PA system carrying his voice out into the sparse crowd on a YouTube video of the event. "He's not here. He's been taken away from us."
He pointed below him at a poster with a blown-up photo of the white buffalo standing in tall grass, gazing placidly into the camera.
"He was the hope of all nations. He brought spirituality back to all of us, when we needed to get our hearts, souls and minds back together with the creator."
Whoever had destroyed this precious thing, he said, could not stop its message.
"We went on with this powwow for a reason. It's a Greenville School powwow for our people to continue their education. And second, it's in memory of the special buffalo that was born here. We're having his birthday today. Tomorrow, I'll send him home."
The investigators left as rain began to fall, and vendors began to shut down. Little Soldier pointed to the sky.
"She washes away. She's letting the clean start again. And I'll have another one. I'll have another white buffalo. The elders have said I will receive another one."
A week later, Ranger Simmons and investigator Seals decided they needed more information from Little Soldier: a list of employees and anyone who'd ever had access to the white buffalo; bills of sale for the buffaloes; veterinary records; anything that could tell them something more than they might learn from the long-dead carcass. More than a week passed, and Seals finally reached Little Soldier. He explained that he'd been trying to contact him, and that they needed more information to continue their investigation. Little Soldier said he'd been out of town, and that he'd get back to him in about a week with the information they needed.
The same day, Seals and Simmons went out to the Lakota Ranch. They interviewed an employee, who showed them where they'd found the white buffalo that day. Seals looked at the grass and could see several spots where it had been matted, as though the animal had gotten up and fallen down repeatedly.
Three weeks passed, and the investigators didn't hear from Little Soldier. But on June 14, they got a call from Sheriff Randy Meeks. Little Soldier had contacted him, he said, and had asked for an update on the investigation. It was another week before Seals reached him. Little Soldier said he had the requested documents. They met the next morning at the Lakota Ranch. Little Soldier was in the horse barn. He asked about the status of the investigation. His tribal elders, he said, were growing restless. Simmons, a thorough Ranger who wore her blonde hair tied back in a bun, explained to him in her measured but insistent way that he'd been almost impossible to reach, and that he hadn't supplied them with any information to go on. Little Soldier said everything they needed was at the house and began walking toward the back porch. He sat down and gazed up at them. Now what was it they needed?
The investigators again listed the kinds of documentation they would require. He couldn't find the bill of sale for the herd, he said. Nor did he vaccinate the buffalo; they took care of themselves. Sam Lone Wolf, his spiritual elder, told him he was not to touch the white buffalo before its first birthday. As for the employment records, the investigators were welcome to pick them up at his wife's office.
His elders were beginning to ask questions, he repeated. They asked why no arrests had been made. They wanted something done. He knew these elders, he said, but he didn't just call them; Lone Wolf was his intermediary.
But investigators began to wonder at what sort of advice he was giving Little Soldier, because Lone Wolf was not this man's only name. Over the years, according to his extensive FBI rap sheet, some had called him Joseph Lee, Joe Quinones, Michael Waters and John Haggerty. His father in Puerto Rico knew him at his birth as Joseph Molano.
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?
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?
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.
@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.
@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.