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By Anna Merlan
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Little Soldier said the Cheyenne, Old Crow's tribe, believed that if they ate the organs of the white buffalo, they assumed its power.
How well do you know Lone Wolf? Simmons asked. He said he'd known him for five or six years. He was once a policeman. Simmons said she hadn't found that anywhere in his record. What she did find, she told him, was a history of "fraud and deceit."
Pat was clearly displeased by this line of questioning. Simmons explained that they had to look at the animal's death from all angles, including natural causes. There were inconsistencies. Little Soldier, Simmons said, told them the calf had been skinned. Yet the veterinarian commented on the generous amount of hide left on its carcass.
No, Little Soldier insisted, he took pictures of it before he buried him. This, too, he'd never told investigators. It would be "greatly helpful," Simmons stressed, if he would share them.
Pat became furious. To even suggest Lightning had not been skinned, she said, was reason enough to end the meeting now.
Simmons asked Little Soldier about the buffaloes that died on his ranch in the last few months. He didn't respond.
"The vet knows," Little Soldier said. Pat told him to show them the letter from their veterinarian. It affirmed that Dr. Dean Hansen of Frisco was, in fact, his veterinarian, and that he had inspected the buffaloes once a month since the white buffalo's death.
Did he conduct any testing? Simmons probed. They hadn't spoken since he returned from vacation, Little Soldier said. If he had lost that many animals in only a few short months, Simmons said, something other than foul play could explain their deaths. Had they vaccinated their herd? Little Soldier said he put deworming blocks out in the pasture. When their tongues turned black, he said, it was a sign of poison.
"Did you know that?" Pat chided. "Did your research tell you that?"
Before long, she stormed out of the interview room.
Simmons concluded the meeting a short time later and reminded Little Soldier to bring them the photos he'd taken of the carcass.
Later that day, the sheriff's office received a call from an anonymous woman. Yolanda Blue Horse, one of the prime suspects, was at the Lakota Ranch, the caller said. A patrol unit in the area found Little Soldier and Blue Horse talking. Both said they were fine. At the time Blue Horse did not know she was a suspect. And before she left the ranch, she says Little Soldier never accused her. "I find him very cowardly," she says. "If he thought I did it, I'm right here. Tell me!"
Seals called Hansen, Little Soldier's vet, and asked him if he'd been out to the ranch. He said he hadn't. But what about the letter Little Soldier had provided them?
"What letter?" Hansen replied. He had not set foot on the Lakota Ranch since Big Ben was killed by lightning.
More than two weeks later, Hansen called Seals. Pat Little Soldier had contacted his office while he was out of town. She asked his office assistant to type the letter, and dictated what she wanted it to say. He said he had also been out to the ranch about a separate matter. Little Soldier was going to give him another buffalo, to replace Ben, but the animal he'd chosen had died.
Hansen asked Little Soldier about the symptoms the buffaloes exhibited before they expired. He suspected they had a case of blackleg on the ranch. It's a cattle disease caused by a bacterium that lives in the soil in the form of a spore, which can lie dormant for years. When cattle, or buffaloes, for that matter, ingest the spores, they enter the bloodstream and lodge in the muscle tissue. There they proliferate, producing gas pockets that eventually starve the muscles of oxygen. Once the infection sets in, the animal goes down quickly and may never get back up. It's almost always fatal. The gas pockets created by the bacteria would separate the white buffalo's skin from its muscle tissue. It wouldn't take much tearing by, say, a coyote for the hide to be stripped away. There is a vaccine for the disease routinely given to cattle. It hasn't been approved specifically for buffaloes, but it's nonetheless administered to them commonly, and works about the same.
Given the deaths of the other buffaloes, and lack of physical evidence on the worm-eaten carcass of the white buffalo, it was the investigators' best guess. Blackleg, not Yolanda Blue Horse, Albert Old Crow and men with skinning knives, became the most likely culprit.
Two weeks passed since the interview, and Little Soldier had not provided them with the photos of the carcass. Sheriff Meeks handed Seals a letter from the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, which said it fronted more than $6,000 to Little Soldier for the naming ceremony. It had yet to see a dime in payment despite his robust memorabilia sales.
Curious about the reward money Little Soldier had spoken of, Seals subpoenaed his and Pat's bank records. The checks being mailed in by well-wishers donating to the reward, memorial and scholarship funds were being deposited directly into Pat Little Soldier's personal checking account. Before the news of Lightning's demise, the account had a balance of $12,000. Over that month, $16,000 more was deposited, including more than $7,000 in checks marked specifically for one of the funds. At the same time, the account had some $28,000 in expenditures. They spent $11,500 on two horses. They paid for motel rooms, employee payroll and a belt buckle for Little Soldier. By the end of May, there was only $500 in the account. Greenville High said it hadn't received a dime for its scholarship fund.
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.