July 20, 2012 in Nation/World

Native Americans gathering to honor white bison’s birth

Michael Melia Associated Press
Associated Press photo

A white bison calf walks in a field with other bison in Goshen, Conn., on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

GOSHEN, Conn. – The birth of a white bison, among the rarest of animals, is bringing Native Americans who consider it a sacred event to celebrate at one of the least likely of places, a farm in New England.

Hundreds of people, including tribal elders from South Dakota, are expected to attend naming ceremonies later this month at the northwestern Connecticut farm of Peter Fay, a fourth-generation Goshen farmer.

Native Americans in the area have come with gifts of tobacco and colored flags for Fay and the bull calf since it was born there a month ago, and Fay plans to offer his hay field as a campsite for the expected crowds.

“They say it’s going to bring good things to all people in the world. How can you beat that? That’s the way I look at it,” Fay said.

Connecticut farms host only about 100 bison, a tiny fraction of the populations in Western states, such as South Dakota, the home of Sioux tribes that attach the greatest spiritual meaning to white bison.

Word spread rapidly after the arrival of the white bison, which experts say is as rare as one in 10 million, and Fay invited Native Americans for the ceremonies at his farm below Mohawk Mountain. In turn, he and his two daughters were asked to participate in the celebrations, which will include a feast and talks by the elders.

“They’re here almost every day, teaching me,” said the 53-year-old Fay, who has bison tattoos on his shoulder and chest.

Marian White Mouse, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe in South Dakota, said the birth of a white bison is a sign from a prophet, the White Buffalo Calf Woman, who helped them endure times of strife and famine. White Mouse’s family of four is flying to Connecticut for the ceremonies.

“For me, it’s like a surreal event. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would ever come in contact with one of them in my lifetime,” said White Mouse, 51.

Jim Stone, the executive director of the InterTribal Buffalo Council in Rapid City, S.D., said the oral traditions of many tribes honor white bison, which have become a universal symbol for hope and unity.

The calf, born on June 16, is off-white – not an albino – and Fay said he is certain the bloodlines are pure, although he has sent its DNA for testing to confirm there was no intermingling with cattle.

To address concerns for the calf’s safety, he also has at least one person stay at the farm around the clock. Last year, a white bison calf born in Texas was found dead and skinned – a slaughter that some suspect as an anti-Indian hate crime.

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