By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
The investigators called Old Crow next. He told them he'd spoken with Little Soldier the day after he'd allegedly discovered the carcass. He could not emcee the birthday celebration and scholarship powwow, Old Crow informed him. He was mourning his mother. He didn't learn of the calf's death until two days later. He and Little Soldier had a number of disagreements, yes. He didn't care for the way Lone Wolf had guided the white buffalo's spiritual life. In fact, he wasn't even sure the man was Indian. Listen to Little Soldier's words closely, Old Crow advised with a wry grin. He "forgets what he tells people."
Either way, Old Crow's alibi checked out. His phone records and receipts proved he'd been out of town.
Over the next week or so, Seals and Simmons interviewed a retiree who mucked the horse stalls briefly for Little Soldier. He said their condition when he was hired was abysmal. They spoke to David Rice, the war chief who'd been tasked with looking in on the white buffalo in the Little Soldiers' absence. Among other things, he mentioned that Little Soldier lost a couple of buffaloes a few years ago and had concluded they were poisoned. What's more, he said, two other buffaloes had died since the passing of the white buffalo and its mother. He said Little Soldier told him he sent samples to Texas A&M to determine the cause of death.
On July 20, Simmons and Seals decided they would try to interview Little Soldier again in the coming days. But four days later, they received an unmistakable message from him, as did television viewers in the Dallas area. That day he held a news conference at the Lakota Ranch. Seven, if not more, may have been involved in the murder of Lightning Medicine Cloud, he told reporters. "This was a hate crime committed by men who wanted to stop the message the calf brought," he said. "We will not let them."
Sam Lone Wolf spoke next. "The way things have been handled is nothing from when I was in law enforcement in Wichita, Kansas," he said. Neither the Wichita Police, the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office, the Kansas Highway Patrol nor the state of Kansas has any record of Lone Wolf's employment.
It was Tuesday, Lone Wolf continued, standing at Little Soldier's shoulder. If justice had not been served by Friday, he was taking matters into his own hands. "If the killers want Indian justice, they will get it."
The investigators requested Little Soldier's presence at the sheriff's office in three days. The keeper of the white buffalo, defiant before the cameras earlier, asked if he needed to bring an attorney.
The Hunt County Sheriff's Office and District Attorney Noble Walker were under intense scrutiny as the white buffalo's death made headlines across the country. They had to get this right. The investigators began consulting with a Dallas lawyer who had experience in tribal affairs. His name was Eric Reed, an Oklahoma Choctaw and former tribal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office. It did not surprise Reed that members of different tribes had divergent ideas about how the white buffalo should be treated. If it had been slain, he did not believe it was at the hands of a Native American. "If the skull was with that animal, there wasn't Indians involved with the killing of it. The most significant thing on that animal was the skull."
On July 27, nearly three months after Lightning's death, Little Soldier, wife Pat and Frank Owens, one of the war chiefs, walked into an interview room at the sheriff's office. Little Soldier wore his ribbon shirt and his customary palm-leaf hat and feather. He pointed at Seals. "Where we at?"
The investigators told him they needed more information.
Little Soldier said people from all over the country had called him with visions.
And what of the seven suspects he spoke of to the press, Simmons asked, doing most of the talking as Seals took notes.
"That wasn't from Arby Little Soldier's mouth."
He held up a photo of the white buffalo.
"We're looking at something innocent here, like a dog that got burned. Something that's high profile to the Native Americans of the Lakota Nation." In a video of the interview, he looked from Seals to Simmons, waving the picture back and forth. "I want justice for this," he said, stabbing the photo with his finger and creating a startlingly loud thwack. "And hopefully we're getting there with the understanding of that."
He said they'd had visions of lookout cars posted on nearby county roads. He said he and a couple of friends found a trail of blood along the fence line using luminol, a chemical that lights up blue in its presence.
"When was that?" Simmons asked.
Just after Lightning's death, Little Soldier replied. This was the first time he'd mentioned that to the investigators.
Simmons asked Little Soldier why he thought Yolanda Blue Horse, Albert Old Crow and his wife were involved.
"You keep asking us, 'How do we know?'" Pat said. "Why do you keep doubting?"
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.