To many tribes she came, though each knew her by a different name.
You might see her now as two young Sioux hunters first saw her,
walking barefoot, like a vision, across the low rolling hills of the prairie.
They had climbed to the top of one such hill, looking for game,
for some sign of movement on the broad rolling sea of grasses.
Far away they saw a dot upon the horizon. They watched it carefully.
By the time it disappeared behind the hill before them, they were almost certain it was human.
With bated breath they waited. At last, upon the crest of the hillk, a young woman appeared
wearing a beautiful white buckskin dress, decorated with dark porcupine quills.
At her side she carried a skin pouch.
Remarking upon her extraordinary beauty, the first of the warrior braves exclaimed
how he would like to couple with her there in the sun-warmed prairie grass.
“Put aside such thoughts,” spoke the other brave.
“This is a sacred woman, a vision perhaps,
certainly not one to be approached in that manner.”
But to his surprise, the woman in white buckskin smiled at the lusty warrior
and said to him, “Come to me, you shall have what you desire.”
And so the second brave was left standing alone on the prairie,
watching as his brother walked off, apparently enjoying the mysterious woman
in the swirling cloud of dust that for a while hid them both from sight.
When the dust had settled enough to see, there was the woman,
bringing slowly together the stitches of her dress.
At her feet, partially decomposed, lay a corpse, alive with worms,
beetles and a cloud of hungry flies.
Then White Buffalo Calf Woman- who was the form in which the Great Spirit
had come to teach the people of the plains- spoke to the young brave,
who now remained alone and said,
“A man who looks first to a woman's outer beauty will never know her beauty divine,
for there is dust upon his eyes and he is as good as blind.
But a man who sees in a woman the spirit of the Great One
and who sees her beauty first in spirit and in truth,
that man will know God in that woman; and should she choose to lie with him,
he will share with her in enjoyment more fully than the former ever could.
And all will be as it should.
“You, when you looked upon me, were not blind to my beauty,
but your first thoughts were,
'Who is she, this beautiful woman?
What is it that makes her countenance glow so in the afternoon sun?
What thoughts are those that dance behind her eyes?
From what land does she come? With what tidings?'
“And so, my young friend, have no fear. You, too, shall have what you desire.
“You and your friend symbolize two paths that the men of a tribe can take.
If you seek first the sacred vision of the Great Spirit, you will see as the Creator sees,
and in that seeing, you will find that what you need from the earth will come readily
into your hands.
But if you seek first to secure your earthly desires and forget the spirit, you will die inside.
“In olden days, most of the men took your path;
but in this age many men are now going the path of your fallen brother.
What you saw in the cloud was a speeded up lifetime;
your brother lived many years in those moments while you saw only a swirl of dust.
It was not so bad for him as you might imagine.
He lived a life that many in this forgetful age would even say was a 'good' one.
But he was ruled ever by his passions. In the end, his body turned to dust,
for all his thoughts were dust.
He had forgotten not only the Great Spirit, but his own spirit as well.
He contributed nothing of meaning to me, to womankind, or to the people of the plains.”
Then the young hunter asked the woman who she was.
With eyes black as the midnight pools between the stars,
she looked steadily at him for a moment, as if her gaze alone gave obvious answer.
“I am the Spirit of Truth, Your people know me as the Mother of the Old Ones,
but as you can see for yourself I am not so old as all that.
I am no older than any stalk of grass waving in the wind or any prairie flower.
I am the great Mother who lives inside every Mother,
the girl who plays in every Sister child.
I am the face of the Great Spirit, that Your people have forgotten.
I have come to talk to the Nations of the plains.
Go before me to your village.
Tell your chief to prepare a generous Tipi, that will accomodate all the people of your camp.
I will be there shortly. I have some things to teach you,
sacred things that your Tribe has forgotten.”
In awe and excitement, the young hunter ran back to his people
and told his chief of all he had seen.
Now the Chief of this young man's Tribe was named Standing Hollow Horn,
a name that no Chief would have had in healthier days,
for it well symbolized the hollowness and bravado that by this time
had come to typify all too many men of the plains.
Yet Standing Hollow Horn was not a thoughtless or an evil man.
After hearing the young man's tale, he set to work along with others
to build a great tepee of many skins in which the people of the camp could gather;
for the weather that early in the year was often wild and stormy in the evenings,
and Standing Hollow Horn would not have the people distracted from the teachings
of one whom he suspected might well be the Mother from the Stars.
When the people saw White Buffalo Calf Woman approaching them
across the prairie, they were amazed.
They were expecting one of much greater years.
Yet She appeared no older than a maiden,
as graceful as the grasses that waved around her in the twilight.
Her face glowed with a radiance that spoke of wild flowers,
watercress and the finest of herbs.
As she walked through the center of the village,
many a warrior had first thoughts like those of their fallen brother.
But they had heard by now the story of his fate,
and they practiced a discipline of thought that to some of them was new.
Barefoot, as she walked always upon the earth in her travels,
White Buffalo Calf Woman entered the tepee of many skins,
her white buckskin dress radiating the presence of her spirit.
Without speaking a word, she walked slowly in a circle around the fire
that burned in the center of the tipi.
As each of her sun-browned feet touched the sand,
all who watched felt her prayerful reverence for the earth.
Seven times, slowly and in silence, she walked around the fire.
Few could look into her eyes. Those who dared saw pools of perfect blackness.
So large were her pupils that those who looked into them could see the mirror
of their face and the reflected flickering of the council fire.
And they felt that they were looking at themselves,
seeing themselves as they truly were- not exaggerating their strengths,
nor ignoring their failings, but as they were, naked and revealed.
Those who could not with honesty look into the eyes of White Buffalo Calf Woman
did not look at all.
Even before she opened her mouth to speak,
her bearing and example had given the people of the Sioux the greatest teaching
those present had ever received.
When she spoke at last, her voice was like the song of waters singing upon the rocks,
like the song of prairie birds calling above the meadows.
It reminded those who heard it of the wind that whispered around their tipis
at night and whistled through the branches of the mountain pines.
“Seven times, I have circled this fire in reverence and in silence.
This fire symbolizes the love that burns forever in the heart of the Great Spirit.
It is the fire that warms the heart of every buffalo, every buffalo calf,
every prairie dog, every sage hen, every eagle and every human being.
You people of the Sioux are like a single being. This tepee of many skins is your body.
This fire that burns at your center is your love.
The fire of your love is at times expressed sexually.”
Here she paused and looked deeply into the eyes of those around her.
“There is a creative as well as a destructive way for this to occur.
Passion that roars out of control is like a wild grass fire that destroys
everything in its path.
But tempered with wisdom, that same passion can fuel whole generations;
it can warm a thousand lodges through a hundred snowy winters
and give its power to your children and to your children's young.
“Those, like the young man whose bones now lie beneath the prairie moonlight,
who think first of the sexual expression of this fire and only second,
if they think at all, of the spirit behind it, lock themselves into
cycles of suffering and illusion- cycles that were unknown among our people
a few short centuries ago, but which now are debilitating your nation,
weakening your vitality and draining away your power.
“Creation does not take place where there is a scattering and dissipation of energies.
Creation requires a gathering together and focusing of your power
within a circle of commitment- like a seed, an egg, a womb or a marriage.
f you would create and not destroy, you must remember always the Sacred Hoop.
Consider wisely the ways in which you would use your power
and then around those ways draw the sacred circle of commitment.
In the warm atmosphere of that circle, the power of love builds
and builds like a storm above the wet summer prairie
until suddenly the circle can hold no more and explodes in the conception of the new.
“This fire is more powerful than any one of you,”
White Buffalo Calf Woman said, pointing as she did to the flames
dancing in the tipis center, “and the seven sacred circles I have walked around
it represent the seven worlds that it has created.
You here live in all seven of those worlds, but you are conscious only of one,
the physical, the external.
You have forgotten the inner worlds, the worlds of vision,
the world from which I come and in which my kind lives.
I am dressed like you people of the plains, but my tribe is not Sioux.”
She paused a moment and slowly bent forward to pull a burning branch from the flames.
“My tribe is the Fire Bird,” she stated quietly.
“I am one of the Bird People, whose tribe once covered this Island of the Turtle.
Do you remember the Winged Ones of Heaven? The Firebirds? The Thunder Tribes?
How long has it been since you called to us in your councils?”
She walked once slowly around the fire, holding up the burning branch
and looking searchingly into their faces for an answer.
All eyes turned to the story tellers.
The story tellers were silent.
“Your people have forgotten, that which is more precious than water.
You have forgotten your connection with the Great Spirit.
I have come,” she said, holding the burning branch above her,
“with a fire from heaven to kindle again your memory of what has been,
and to strengthen you for the times to come.”
She then placed the branch back into the fire and took from her side
the skin pouch she carried.
Many only now noticed this pouch for the first time.
They were amazed at the beautiful beadwork and porcupine quill designs on its surface.
“In this pouch,” she said, “is a pipe. This pipe is sacred.
I give it to you to help you remember the teachings that I bring.
Always treat this pipe with respect.
Carry it and the others you may make after its fashion only in bags of the finest skin,
decorated by only the most reverent of hands.”
Not yet opening the skin pouch that contained the pipe,
but placing it reverently near the fire and occasionally gesturing toward it,
White Buffalo Calf Woman explained the use of the pipe.
“Fill this pipe with a sacred tobacco grown especially for the purpose.
Draw your first breath of smoke from this pipe as a breath of gratitude to the Great Spirit,
from whose breath you were first given life.
Use the smoke of this pipe to represent your thoughts, prayers, and aspirations.
Send them upward with your exhalations to the Great One,
Wakan Tanka, Grandfather of all.
Each time you do this, pass the pipe slowly and reverently among those
who may be gathered with you while each offers his first inhalation
to the Great One above this world.
“Then with your second breath of the sacred tobacco,
let your thoughts be of love and gratitude to your Mother, the earth.
Give thanks for the grasses that clothe her breasts in prairies of flowing grain.
Give thanks for the canopy of blues sky that she holds for you as a world in which to live.
Give thanks for the storm clouds that bring rain to the prairies,
filling creeks, water holes, springs and ponds.
With reverence pass the pipe around the circle while each one takes a second breath
of the sacred smoke and does the same.
“Let your third breath be for the four footed and the feathered ones,
for the buffalo and the prairie chickens, for the fishes in your rivers
and for all the creatures of this good earth.
“And let your fourth breath be for the Ongwhehonwhe (the people true to reality).
Let your prayer be that your tribe will always remain among them,
and that one day the people who remain true to reality
will include all the nations of the world.”
All this time she had not yet opened the pouch in which she held the pipe.
Now, she slowly untied the leather thongs that bound it and lifted a corner,
reached within to pull from the white skin pouch a pipe of red stone.
The manner in which she raised this pipe for all to see spoke of such reverence
that all within the great tipi grew still.
Many in that moment found their hearts full. Tears glistened in many eyes.
“This sacred pipe,and every breath of sacred smoke you breathe through its stem
will help you remember that every breath you take is sacred.
The bowl of the pipe is made of red stone. It is in the shape of a circle.
It symbolizes the Sacred Hoop, the sacred circle of giving and receiving,
of in-breathing and out-breathing, in which all living things come to life
through the power of the Great One.”
Asking for some tobacco, White Buffalo Calf Woman filled the pipe saying,
“This tobacco I know was grown in your most fertile soil and given your most special care.
It symbolizes the plant world, the moss upon the stones, the flowers, the herbs,
the leaves of grass that cover the hillsides lest your mother lie naked in the sun.
You, my people of the Sioux, are here to care for the earth.
Your life is lit from that same fire that burns
in the heart of the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka.”
So saying, she stuck a small twig into the fire until it burned brightly.
“Just as I light this individual twig from the great fire that burns in the center of this tipi,
so each individual human being is a flame taken from the eternal fire of God's love.”
Slowly she moved the flaming twig away from the central fire and held it up for all to see.
“This, your individual human life, like the single flame that burns upon this twig,
is sufficient to light a great fire.
As long as the love that burns within you is turned toward self-centered pursuits,
it will remain tiny like this flame.
Remaining tiny, it will bring you no joy.
Eventually, in the swirling winds of spirit, it will be extinguished.
“But when you live in harmony with the Great Spirit,
your flame of love is fanned by those same spirit winds.
You are in love with the very purpose of life!
You light the fire of love in all you meet.
You know the purpose of your walk through this world
and you know why the Great One gave you a life flame:
not so that you could keep your tiny flame to yourself,
loving what you need alone, but so that you could give it away,
and with the fire of your love, bring consciousness to the earth.”
So saying, she held the burning twig until the flame
was just above the red bowl of the pipe.
To the pipe's center she touched the fire, inhaling softly through the stem
until the tobacco glowed brightly.
The first wafts of the sacred smoke drifted through the lodge.
It was as if those present were seeing a pipe lit for the first time.
“Just as the tobacco that burns within this pipe of earth represents the plant kingdom,
so this buffalo you see carved on the stone bowl of the pipe represents
the four legged creatures that share with you this sacred world, Etenoha.
“These twelve feathers hanging from the stem of the pipe
have come from Wambli Galeshka, the spotted eagle.
They are to remind you of the feathered races
with whom you share the great circle of the sky;
but they are also to remind you of your spirit selves, the Bird Tribes,
the Winged Ones of heaven.
As I now pass this pipe to you and you give thanks to the Great Spirit
with your first breath of tobacco, let those feathers remind you of the spirit
beings who come from the stars to brighten your human lives.
Let these twelve sacred feathers draw your thoughts up
and away from the gravity of petty and jealous passions.
Let your thoughts fly, like these feathers have once flown on Wambli Galeshka,
high above the world of the little self.
“Take this pipe. Give your thanks to the Great Spirit and pass the pipe
to the others in our circle. Let your thoughts be lifted up to the Great One
who comes now to stir your memories and to open the eyes of your story tellers.
“Every dawn that dawns red in your eastern sky, like the red bowl of this pipe,
is the birth of a new and holy day. \
And just as the rising sun drives out the darkness, so the light that shines
in the lives of all those who love, drives out the darkness of self-centeredness
and dissolves the shadows that cause misfortune.
“Remember always to treat every creature as a sacred being:
the people that live beyond the mountains, the winged ones of the air,
the four footed, the fishes that hide beneath the cool rocks
in silver streams and lakes,
all of these are your sisters and your brothers.
All are sacred parts in the body of the Great Spirit. Each one is holy.
“The most difficult part of this teaching may be to extend this respect
to the people of your neighboring tribes.
Remember, like you, they are sacred people, given a specific work
to do in the great Being of Wakan Tanka.
Their work is not your own, their tasks differ from yours,
but the purpose you serve is the same.
The sun that shines upon you does not see you as being so very different.
In peace you must live side by side with these who are a different shade of the color red.
“For a people are coming soon who do not share the color of your skin,
but who are white like the snow that falls in the winter months.
With them will also come those of black skin.
And those of yellow skin. And those of colors in between.
“Just as the colors blend together in rainbows that arch across the prairie
when the storm is passed, so you must tell the white races,
the black races and the yellow ones when they come that though
that you are of red skin, you are first and foremost people of the Great Spirit.
Through peaceful blending with your neighboring tribes,
be an inspiration to the wandering peoples.
Help lead all races into the harmony of the rainbow.”
And then the pipe was passed, and she was silent until all those present
had taken their first smoke.
A second time the pipe was passed in reverence for the earth,
a third for the four footed and winged.
A fourth time the pipe was passed in reverence for the many tribes of humankind,
those in the distant past, those living now, and those yet to be.
After all gathered in the great tipi, had completed their fourth smoke,
White Buffalo Calf Woman raised the pipe reverently before her for all to see.
“Carry your pipe with you always. Treat it as a sacred object.
Honor all creatures and live your life in harmony with the Sacred Way of Balance
of which every tree, every flower and every new day speaks.
There will be many seasons when your heart will feel clear
and pure as a mountain spring, and you will know the peace and joy of the Great Spirit.
But should ever your steps falter, now or in the more troubled times to come,
if ever you feel that you have stepped aside from the path of the Sacred Way,
if ever your heart should feel heavy within you, do not waste time in regret.
I will give you a ceremony,” she said, filling the pipe once more
and relighting it from the sacred fire, “a ceremony, which each of you
can do in company with others, alone in your lodge, or out upon the prairie.
“Stop your activities. Find a rock upon which to sit.
Asking for the Great Spirit's guidance as I have taught you,
unwrap your pipe, and let its red bowl remind you of the sacred road,
the way of life, the red pathway of the sun.
After you have smoked your smokes to the Great Spirit, to the earth,
to the animals, and to the people who are true to reality,
after you have given your thanks to the four directions,
then take a fifth smoke asking for the guidance of the great winged beings
of the spirit world.
“Ask the particular winged being of the spirit world that is closest to you
to help you see the wisest path to follow.
Ask that spirit to help you make the clearest choice, to help you know
the steps you are to take upon the path that your deepest knowing
would have you travel.
In time you will come to know that spirit being as your own true self.
For now, just rest in the still place where the deepest knowing makes its lodge.
This will put you in touch with what you may have forgotten in the hurry of life.
This will allow the fire that burns within you to speak to you in plain and unbroken terms.
“With this fifth smoke, the smoke that you offer to the invisible spirit that guides you,
you will see that the spirit world is real, inhabited by wise and benevolent beings
that watch over your trials and hardships, unable to offer you help or assistance
until you ask them.
With this smoke, ask the spirit beings that surround you to come into your life.
Tell them you want to help them and the Great Spirit in their work
and ask them how you can do this.
By helping the Great Spirit in his work, you will help yourself far more
than if you weree merely concerned withyour own affairs.
Human beings are not fully happy or healthy until they serve
the purpose for which God created them.
“Offer your sixth smoke to the six people whom you would
most like to see especially blessed.
A loved one whose spirit has flown from his body.
A young man or woman who will soon be entering adulthood.
The leader of a neighboring tribe whom you would like to see
deepen in the ways of wisdom.
Perhaps your own grandfathers, grandmothers or families.
Each time you do this, choose the six people
whom you would most like God to smile upon. For them, offer this smoke.”
She then explained how this sixth smoke could be taken in six smaller smokes,
one for each of the people involved.
While the pipe was being slowly passed, she drew circles in the sand
to represent the souls of each of these six people.
Then around them all, she drew one great circle to represent the blessing.
When all present had completed their sixth smoke,
White Buffalo Calf Woman turned slowly to look at each one in turn.
All within the tipi grew very still.
Even the outside breezes came to a rest and atop the poles,
the tipi flaps hung motionless.
The seventh smoke she explained must always be taken in silence;
for it was offered to the Great Being from which every being was drawn.
For that sacred mystery at the source of life,
it was better she said, to have no words.
After the seventh smoke was completed, such a unity was felt by those present
in the great tipi of many skins, it seemed in that moment as if there was but one present.
In perfect stillness, the silence spread like warm water,
dissolving the last traces of disharmony from the heart of the Sioux.
For many moments White Buffalo Calf Woman was silent.
When she spoke again, she compared her teachings to a tree,
a tree that would flower in their understnading as they took these things
to heart and applied them in their daily living.
She told the Sioux how their individual human lives were like the individual leaves
of a tree and how no tree has leaves so foolish as to fight among themselves.
“No people true to reality would be so blind,” she said, “as to let the individuals
within their tribe contend with one another.
Remember, there is no cause that justifies violence against another human being,
save only in the last resort to protect yourself or family.
“For a long time, you will live beneath the sacred shade
of this Tree of Understanding that I am planting
in your consciousness this evening.
And in the generations immediately following yours,
the people of the plains will be united again in the Sacred Circle.
Be true to that circle, my women of the buffalo, my braves, my people of the Sioux.
Be true to these ways and hold steadfast in this truth.
For a time will come like a dark storm from the east when the prairies
shall be overrun with those who speak fast, perceive little, and wield much power.
“The sacred Tree of Understanding that you will carry within you
during these next few generations will be cut down in that storm.
The tree will seem to die. The Sacred Hoop will wither until it is all but forgotten.
A few will keep the light of truth burning within their hearts,
but the light will grow dim and become, even in those, but a tiny ember.
“But that ember will remain. Quietly, it will remain. All but forgotten,
it will hold still a small glow in the hearts of the gentle ones.
Even when a strange and hurried nation covers these prairies,
even when your Mother Earth is bought and sold and stolen
as if she were no more than a handful of beads,
even when roaring ships of magic stone fly with people in them across the skies,
that ember will hold still its tiny glow.
And know this, my people: a great fire can be ignited from a single, glowing ember!
“For when the storm is over, that ember will ignite a dawn
brighter than any dawn before.
A new tree will grow, more glorious than this tree I leave with you now.
With that new dawn, I will return.
Under the shade of that new tree I will live with you.
And with us will be gathered not only the tribes shaded red,
but the white tribes from the north and the black tribes from the south
and the yellow tribes of the East.
In harmony, the four races will live beneath the boughs of the new tree.
The age that we will see together will be the best that has ever been.
All that has been broken will be made whole. The Sacred Hoop will be mended.
The game will be plentiful and the spirits of all creatures
will rejoice in the harmony of a new and perfect order.
The Great Spirit, the very Thunderbird, will be active within the races,
living, breathing, creating through the peoples of the earth.
Peace will come then to the nations, for the original creators of life,
the Winged Ones of heaven will return.”
- from “Return of The Bird Tribes”
The White Buffalo Woman”
The Sioux are a warrior tribe, and one of their proverbs says, “Woman shall not walk before man. ”
Yet White Buffalo Woman is the dominant figure of their most important legend.
The medicine man Crow Dog explains, “This holy woman brought the sacred buffalo calf pipe to the Sioux.
There could be no Indians without it. Before she came, people didn't know how to live.
They knew nothing. The Buffalo Woman put her sacred mind into their minds. ”
At the ritual of the sun dance one woman, is given the honor of representing Buffalo Woman.
Though she first appeared to the Sioux in human form,
White Buffalo Woman was also a buffalo ,the Indians' brother,
who gave its flesh so that the people might live.
Albino buffalo were sacred to all Plains tribes;
a white buffalo hide was a sacred talisman, a possession beyond price.
One summer so long ago that nobody knows how long, the OcetiShakowin,
the seven sacred council fires of the Lakota Oyate, the nation, came together and camped.
The sun shone all the time, but there was no game and the people were starving.
Every day they sent scouts to look for game, but the scouts found nothing.
Among the bands assembled were the Itazipcho, the WithoutBows,
who had their own camp circle under their chief, Standing Hollow Horn.
Early one morning the chief sent two of his young men to hunt for game.
They went on foot, because at that time the Sioux didn't yet have horses.
They searched everywhere but could find nothing.
Seeing a high hill, they decided to climb it in order to look over the whole country.
Halfway up, they saw something coming toward them from far off,
but the figure was floating instead of walking.
From this they knew that the person was wakan , holy.
At first they could make out only a small moving speck and had to squint
to see that it was a human form.
But as it came nearer, they realized that it was a beautiful young woman,
more beautiful than any they had ever seen, with two round, red dots of face paint on her cheeks.
She wore a wonderful white buckskin outfit, tanned until it shone a long way in the sun.
It was embroidered with sacred and marvelous designs of porcupine quill,
in radiant colors no ordinary woman could have made.
This wakan stranger was PtesanWi, White Buffalo Woman.
In her hands she carried a large bundle and a fan of sage leaves.
She wore her blueblack hair loose except for a strand at the left side,
which was tied up with buffalo fur.
Her eyes shone dark and sparkling, with great power in them.
The two young men looked at her openmouthed.
One was overawed, but the other desired her body and stretched his hand out to touch her.
This woman was lila wakan, very sacred, and could not be treated with disrespect.
Lightning instantly struck the brash young man and burned him up,
so that only a small heap of blackened bones was left.
Or as some say that he was suddenly covered by a cloud,
and within it he was eaten up by snakes that left only his skeleton,
just as a man can be eaten up by lust.
To the other scout who had behaved rightly, the White Buffalo Woman said:
“Good things I am bringing, something holy to your nation.
A message I carry for your people from the buffalo nation.
Go back to the camp and tell the people to prepare for my arrival.
Tell your chief to put up a medicine lodge with twenty four poles.
Let it be made holy for my coming.”
This young hunter returned to the camp. He told the chief, he told the people,
what the sacred woman had commanded.
The chief told the eyapaha, the crier, and the crier went through the camp circle calling:
“Someone sacred is coming. A holy woman approaches. Make all things ready for her.”
So the people put up the big medicine tipi and waited.
After four days they saw the White Buffalo Woman approaching,
carrying her bundle before her. Her wonderful white buckskin dress shone from afar.
The chief, Standing Hollow Horn, invited her to enter the medicine lodge.
She went in and circled the interior sunwise.
The chief addressed her respectfully, saying: “Sister, we are glad you have come to instruct us.”
She told him what she wanted done. In the center of the tipi they were to put up an owanka wakan,
a sacred altar, made of red earth, with a buffalo skull and a threestick rack for a holy thing she was bringing.
They did what she directed, and she traced a design with her finger on the smoothed earth of the altar.
She showed them how to do all this, then circled the lodge again sunwise.
Halting before the chief, she now opened the bundle.
the holy thing it contained was the chanunpa, the sacred pipe.
She held it out to the people and let them look at it.
She was grasping the stem with her right hand and the bowl with her left,
and thus the pipe has been held ever since.
Again the chief spoke, saying: “Sister, we are glad. We have had no meat for some time.
All we can give you is water.”
They dipped some wacanga, sweet grass, into a skin bag of water and gave it to her,
and to this day the people dip sweet grass or an eagle wing in water
and sprinkle it on a person to be purified.
The White Buffalo Woman showed the people how to use the pipe.
She filled it with chanshasha, red willowbark tobacco.
She walked around the lodge four times after the manner of AnpetuWi, the great sun.
This represented the circle without end, the sacred hoop, the road of life.
The woman placed a dry buffalo chip on the fire and lit the pipe with it.
This was petaowihankeshini , the fire without end,
the flame to be passed on from generation to generation.
She told them that the smoke rising from the bowl was Tunkashila's breath,
the living breath of the great Grandfather Mystery.
The White Buffalo Woman showed the people the right way to pray,
the right words and the right gestures.
She taught them how to sing the pipefilling song and how to lift the pipe up to the sky,
toward Grandfather, and down toward Grandmother Earth, to Unci,
and then to the four directions of the universe.
“With this holy pipe,” she said, “you will walk like a living prayer.
With your feet resting upon the earth and the pipestem reaching into the sky,
your body forms a living bridge between the Sacred Beneath and the Sacred Above.
Wakan Tanka smiles upon us, because now we are as one: earth, sky, all living things,
the two legged, the fourlegged, the winged ones, the trees, the grasses.
Together with the people, they are all related, one family. The pipe holds them all together.”
“Look at this bowl,” said the White Buffalo Woman. “Its stone represents the buffalo,
but also the flesh and blood of the red man.
The buffalo represents the universe and the four directions, because he stands on four legs,
for the four ages of man.
The buffalo was put in the west by Wakan Tanka at the making of the world
, to hold back the waters.
Every year he loses one hair, and in every one of the four ages he loses a leg.
The Sacred Hoop will end when all the hair and legs of the great buffalo are gone,
and the water comes back to cover the Earth.
The wooden stem of this chanunpa stands for all that grows on the earth.
Twelve feathers hanging from where the stem the backbone joins the bowl
the skull are from Wanblee Galeshka, the spotted eagle,
the very sacred who is the Great Spirit's messenger and the wisest of all cry out to Tunkashila .
Look at the bowl: engraved in it are seven circles of various sizes.
They stand for the seven ceremonies you will practice with this pipe,
and for the Ocheti Shakowin , the seven sacred campfires of our Lakota nation.”
The White Buffalo Woman then spoke to the women, telling them that it was the work of their hands
and the fruit of their bodies which kept the people alive.
“You are from the mother earth,” she told them.
“What you are doing is as great as what warriors do.”
And therefore the sacred pipe is also something that binds men and women together in a circle of love.
It is the one holy object in the making of which both men and women have a hand.
The men carve the bowl and make the stem; the women decorate it with bands of colored porcupine quills.
When a man takes a wife, they both hold the pipe at the same time and red cloth is wound around their hands,
thus tying them together for life.
The White Buffalo Woman had many things for her Lakota sisters in her sacred womb bag;
corn, wasna (pemmican), wild turnip.
She taught how to make the hearth fire. She filled a buffalo paunch with cold water
and dropped a redhot stone into it.
“This way you shall cook the corn and the meat,” she told them.
The White Buffalo Woman also talked to the children,
because they have an understanding beyond their years.
She told them that what their fathers and mothers did was for them,
that their parents could remember being little once, and that they, the children,
would grow up to have little ones of their own.
She told them: “You are the coming generation, that's why you are the most important and precious ones.
Some day you will hold this pipe and smoke it.
Some day you will pray with it.”
She spoke once more to all the people: “The pipe is alive; it is a red being showing
you a red life and a red road.
And this is the first ceremony for which you will use the pipe.
You will use it to Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery Spirit.
The day a human dies is always a sacred day.
The day when the soul is released to the Great Spirit is another.
Four women will become sacred on such a day.
They will be the ones to cut the sacred tree, the canwakan, for the sun dance.”
She told the Lakota that they were the purest among the tribes,
and for that reason Tunkashila had bestowed upon them the holy chanunpa.
They had been chosen to take care of it for all the Indian people on this turtle continent.
She spoke one last time to Standing Hollow Horn, the chief, saying,
“Remember: this pipe is very sacred. Respect it and it will take you to the end of the road.
The four ages of creation are in me; I am the four ages.
I will come to see you in every generation cycle. I shall come back to you.”
The sacred woman then took leave of the people, saying:
” Toksha ake wacinyanitin ktelo, I shall see you again.”
The people saw her walking off in the same direction from which she had come,
outlined against the red ball of the setting sun.
As she went, she stopped and rolled over four times.
The first time, she turned into a black buffalo; the second into a brown one; the third into a red one;
and finally, the fourth time she rolled over, she turned into a white female buffalo calf.
A white buffalo is the most sacred living thing you could ever encounter.
The White Buffalo Woman disappeared over the Horizon. Sometime she might come back.
As soon as she had vanished, buffalo in great herds appeared,
allowing themselves to be killed so the people might survive.
And from that day on, our relations, the buffalo, furnished the people with everything they needed,
meat for their food, skins for their clothes and tipis, bones for their many tools