"… the road that is built in hope is more pleasant to the traveler than the road built in despair, even though they both lead to the same destination."
- Marion Zimmer Bradley
Day 20 - Wednesday, July 12, 1995 - After spending a second night in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, the walkers awoke in a generally cheerful mood. With enthusiasm, they got back on the road north of Camden on Route 130, and walked as far as the Benjamin Franklin Bridge just shy of Philadelphia.
The walkers completed the day’s planned steps by about 1 PM, then set off to visit the city. Packed into Sherry's van, the group made its way to a small park in Philadelphia near where the Schuylkill River flows into the Delaware. There the group made a Pipe Ceremony.
|Nuclear reactor - along the Delaware River, just north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Musiquegirl, courtesy of flckr.com)
While Tom Dostou was joining the stem to the bowl, he noticed something. The pipe, which had been given to the walkers by Lisa McMann as they passed through Rhode Island, had two words carved into the bowl just where it meets the stem. Tom looked closely and read "Buffalo Woman."
This discovery prompted a round of storytelling -- a sharing of understandings about what has been happening in Indian Country since the Hopi, Lakota, Algonquin and other elders visited the House of Mica. Precisely nine months after the elders delivered their messages at the United Nations, as if they had planted a seed with their words, a legend became a living reality: a white buffalo calf was born in Janesville, Wisconsin.
The calf was born into a herd of 14 buffalo on a 46-acre family farm owned by David and Valerie Heider. She became the first white buffalo born in more than 50 years. Named Miracle, the calf represents the fulfillment of a key Native American understanding.
|Black Elk - (1939 Photo by W. Ben Hunt)
Oral tradition holds that long ago the Lakota Sioux came together and camped. There was no game at that time, and the people were close to starvation. Early one morning the chief Hehlokecha Najin (Standing Hollow Horn) sent two young men out on foot to hunt.
According to the book "The Sacred Pipe," which relates the account of this legend given by Black Elk, the hunters scanned the countryside, and then they encountered a beautiful young woman dressed in white buckskins. She came across the plains in a sacred manner, surrounded by a bright light.
Eventually the holy woman -- known as Pte San Wi (White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman) -- came to the camp and shared sacred teachings for four days. When she was finished teaching, the holy woman gave the people her sacred bundle, which the Lakota people still have to this day and speak of as the White Buffalo Calf Woman Pipe
The holy woman told the people she would return at the end of the age -- a time when the earth and all the people would be in great distress -- and that she would bring a message of peace, unity and respect. She made some prophecies at that time.
One of her prophecies was that the birth of a white buffalo calf would be a sign that it would be near the time when she would return.
|A White Buffalo - More than 15 white buffaloes have been born in North America since the first, Miracle, in 1994. This photo was taken at Spirit Mountain Ranch, at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, just north of Flagstaff, Arizona. Author photo, 2006.
Right after the birth of the first calf, Miracle, Arvol Looking Horse made a pilgrimage to visit the white buffalo calf in Wisconsin with a delegation of Lakota elders from the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Looking Horse had been one of the Lakota delegates to the UN’s House of Mica with the Hopi, with Grandfather Commanda, and with other elders for the Cry of the Earth conference.
For 19 generations Looking Horse's family has served as the keeper of the original pipe said to have been given to the people by Pte San Wi, so his thoughts on the birth of the white buffalo calf were important to many people.
"The things the elders have talked about for so long have now come to pass'' Looking Horse said at that time. "We are given this time to strengthen each other. This is an important time in history. The prophecies are being fulfilled…It is time to mend the Sacred Hoop of life on our Earth Mother. The birth of the white buffalo calf let us know that we are at a crossroads: we either return to balance or face global disaster."
Looking Horse said the calf would help unify the different races of human beings, revive spirituality, and help heal the damage caused by pollution.
After talking these things over as they sat by the banks of the Schuylkill and the Delaware Rivers, the Sunbow 5 walkers reaffirmed their determination to walk to the Western Gate in California.
Copyright 2006 by Steven McFaden