In this week's edition, the cover story chronicles the short life and ambiguous death of Lightning Medicine Cloud, the rare white buffalo born to Hunt County rancher Arby Little Soldier. To the Lakota Oyate, the animal was prophecy, heralding the return of the prophet White Buffalo Calf Woman, and a crossroads for mankind.
The white buffalo died in April before its first birthday, and what followed can't be good for any of us if you believe in the prophecy. I won't spoil the story here, but suffice to say the means by which the white buffalo met its untimely end are ... murky. Little Soldier, of the Lakota Oyate and the Sahnish people, claims the calf was murdered in a Cheyenne conspiracy. Investigators from the Hunt County Sheriff's Office and Texas Rangers think it probably died of natural causes.
So it will be interesting to see what brothers/filmmakers Richard and Ethan Marten do with this unsettled, acrimonious tale. Broadly, their film, "White Buffalo: An American Prophecy," is about galactic alignment, the cataclysm predicted by the Mayan calendar in 2012 and the white buffalo, herald of a transformative era. The film is slated for release sometime during the first quarter of 2013, funded segment by segment via Kickstarter.
The Martens visited Little Soldier's Lakota Ranch in November, some six months after the calf's birth, and again, he says, following its death. I asked Richard Marten what he made of the investigation and the conclusion that the white buffalo had not been killed by human hands. He doesn't buy it. "I absolutely accept Arby's version of the events at face-value," Marten says. "I think that's a crock of shit, and I think it's an attempt by local authorities to whitewash it.
"He's one of the most sincere guys I've ever met. The grief I saw when we interviewed him ... there were tears running down his face. We're in the movie business, so I think we're good judges of acting tears and genuine grief. It's my understanding law enforcement beyond the local authorities are investigating the situation."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Marten is right on that last point. A characteristically cryptic U.S. Department of Justice spokesman says the agency has been asked to review the case and is doing so. A Texas Ranger's case report stated DOJ attorneys with the civil rights division looked at the case and declined to become involved, so who knows?
After the white buffalo's death, Marten says they visited Dealey Plaza. The filmmakers saw a parallel narrative in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. "My brother [Ethan] and I explained that the murder of Kennedy was the most searing event of our childhood. It was the end of innocence; the death of the American dream," Marten says. "It caused us to question. My personal belief is there are social and political reasons behind assassinations. He was attempting to reverse America's descent into the war in Southeast Asia. He saw what was going to happen and he tried to stop it before it was too late.
"In that sense, he can be thought of as a martyr for peace. Lightning Medicine Cloud was a martyr for peace."
It should be an interesting film. Marten says they've been working on the project for nearly 20 years. You can catch a teaser here.